The Acts of the Democracies

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1998

Biopiracy

The large biotechnology USA company Monsanto (worth $38,000 million) develops genetically engineered plants whose seeds will not germinate to produce the next crop. Furthermore the plant will not grow without chemicals that can only be bought from Monsanto.

Using World Trade Organisation (WTO) regulations, an attempt is made to force Asian countries like India and Bangladesh to use these plants. This would make the farmers dependent on having to buy the seeds every year. Public pressure rejects the biotechnology.

Monsanto is one of a group of companies that pushes the WTO to legislate for Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). These would allow the patenting of products from the natural world. The provisions would make it illegal for farmers to plant seeds that they have used for hundreds of years unless they pay royalties to the patent holders. Even human DNA has been considered for patenting. Many countries fear TRIPs because they see it as biopiracy or biocolonialism.

UK biologist, Mae Won Ho, has stated that Western companies want to use poorer countries: "as resevoirs of biological and genetic resources to develop new crops, drugs, biopesticides, oils and cosmetics."

The Neem tree in India (Azadirachta Indica) has been used for centuries as a medicine and biopesticide. The Indian Patents Act of 1970 forbids the patenting of inventions relating to agricultural processes. USA companies (like W R Grace) are pressing for a WTO ruling to over-ride Indian law and allow patents of substances derived from the Neem tree.

Monsanto's attempts to sell genetically modified (GM) soya to Europe meets public resistance even after USA threats of WTO action against Europe. The Europeans want to segregate and label GM foods; the USA opposes this. Consumers International notes:

"One of the ironies of this issue is the contrast between the enthusiasm of food producers to claim that their biologically engineered products are different and unique when they seek to patent them and their similar enthusiasm for claiming that they are just the same as other foods when asked to label them."

Monsanto was responsible for producing Agent Orange which contained the carcinogen (cancer producer), dioxin. This was used by the USA in Vietnam. Since the 1960s, 500,000 Vietnamese children have been born with dioxin-related deformaties; no compensation has ever been paid.

The USA Vice President, Al Gore, puts pressure on South Africa not to use cheap generic AIDS drugs. Their use would have eaten into the profits of USA companies. South Africa has 3 million people who are HIV Positive and the population is impoverished. Al Gore has links to the drug industry.

© 2017, KryssTal


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