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Campaign for review of TRIPS to be launched

Special Correspondent

Protest against patents on life forms

NEW DELHI: Farmers' groups, scientists, lawyers and activists will launch a countrywide campaign on August 9 against patents on life forms and bio-piracy to pressure countries to review the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in the next round of the World Trade Organisation negotiations in Hong Kong towards the year-end.

Announcing this at the end of a two-day international conference on `Biodiversity, Indigenous Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights,' Vandana Shiva of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology said the protests would begin on the Quit-India Day and culminate on the Independence Day on August 15. `Say No to Patenting of Life Forms' would be the theme.

"The WTO has forced countries to introduce laws that allow life forms and living organisms to be patented. In India, this was done through the second amendment [to] the 1970 Patent Act. In Europe, it was implemented through the Biotechnology Directive," she said. "Fifty people imposed TRIPS and life patents on the six billion people of the world threatening farmers' livelihood and lives, as well as the planet's biodiversity."

"Leadership eroded"

S.P. Shukla, India's negotiator at the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) during the Uruguay Round traced the history of India's role in blocking TRIPS up to 1988.

"Subsequently, India's leadership was eroded through U.S. manipulation and the third-world unity broke which led to the imposition of the unjust and undemocratic WTO/TRIPS agreement," he said.

Executive Chairman of the Bharat Krishak Samaj demanded the withdrawal of the Seed Bill, 2004. He alleged that vested interests were bartering the country's interests by allowing multi-national corporations to control seeds. "Control over seeds would be control over people's food [roti]. This will not be allowed."

He said the Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act was not being notified because of the industry's attempts to push in the pro-trader Seeds Bill.

"Compulsory registration of all seeds including farmers' traditional varieties is such an instrument and is being introduced through the Seed Bill," Dr. Shiva said.

Tracing their fight over getting the neem patent revoked, the former Belgian Minister of Health and Environment, Magda Aelvoet, said in addition to monopolies, the dominant models of intellectual property had promoted an "epidemic of bio-piracy, the patenting of traditional knowledge and indigenous biodiversity."

She called bio-piracy "a major transfer of illegitimate wealth from the poor South to the rich North creating new poverty."

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