Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy 2006

Biopiracy refers to the monopolization (usually through intellectual property) of genetic resources and traditional knowledge or culture taken from peoples or farming communities that developed and nurtured those resources.

Worst Threat to Food Sovereignty:


For its Terminator-like patent designed to prevent potatoes from sprouting, despite the company's pledge not to commercialize technologies involving sterile seed. US patent 6,700,039 describes a genetic modification method that prevents sprouting unless an external chemical inducer is applied.

And for Syngentas multi-genome patent applications on thousands of gene sequences vital for rice breeding and extending to dozens of other plant species.

Greediest Biopirate:

J Craig Venter

For undertaking, with flagrant disregard for national sovereignty over biodiversity, a US-funded global biopiracy expedition on his yacht, Sorcerer II, to collect and sequence microbial diversity from the world's oceans and soils. The genetic material will play a role in his most ambitious project to date: building an entirely new artificial organism.

Biggest Threat to Genetic Privacy:

Google Inc.

For teaming up with J. Craig Venter to create a searchable online database of all the genes on the planet so that individuals and pharmaceutical companies alike can 'google' our genes - one day bringing the tools of biopiracy online.

Extreme Makeover Award:

Delta & Pine Land

For vowing, since 1998, to commercialize Terminator technology. Initially, D&PL promoted genetic seed sterilization for use in the South to prevent farmers from re-using seed. After massive protest, the company changed its tune and said Terminator was primarily intended for Northern farmers. Now the company is greenwashing Terminator by promoting it as a biosafety tool to contain gene flow - for farmers everywhere!

Most Shameful Act of Biopiracy:

US Government

For imposing plant intellectual property laws on war-torn Iraq in June 2004. When US occupying forces 'transferred sovereignty' to Iraq, they imposed Order no. 84, which makes it illegal for Iraqi farmers to re-use seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law. Iraq's new patent law opens the door to the multinational seed trade, and threatens food sovereignty.

Worst DejaVu:

Human Genographic Project

For resurrecting the old (much discredited) Human Genome Diversity project with new corporate money. IBM and the National Geographic Society are spending $40 million dollars and establishing ten research centers around the globe to collect and analyse more than 100,000 DNA samples from indigenous people, claiming this will help them understand their ancestry.

Access of Evil Award:

Canada, Australia, New Zealand

For repeated attempts to undermine the de facto moratorium on Terminator technology at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). And for their betrayal of Indigenous Peoples at the CBD's Working Group on 8(j) in Spain.

Biggest Tiny Claim On Nature:

Nanosys, Inc.
For securing a US patent on 'metal-oxide nanorods' covering more than a third of the chemical elements of the periodic table.

Worst Betrayal:

Genencor et al.

For patenting, cloning and selling 'extremophile' microorganisms that were collected from lakes in Kenya without the permission of Kenyan authorities or the collaborating Kenyan researcher. The microorganisms produce industrially-important enzymes (used to fade blue jeans) that reap millions for industry but nothing for Kenya.

Most Hypocritical - Joint Winners:

University of California-Davis

For patenting a blight-resistant gene extracted from a rice variety developed by the Bela peoples of Mali, and for failing to deliver on the Genetic Resources Recognition Fund to benefit Mali's farmers. The Philippines-based public plant breeding institute - the International Rice Research Institute - handed over the blight resistant rice sample to UC-Davis researchers in 1990. But when IRRI requested access to the blight resistant gene derived from the sample, UC-Davis demanded a $10,000 fee.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
For writing Bonn-inspired bioprospecting guidelines for use by BIO member companies and then inviting the companies to ignore them.

Next: The 2006 Cog Awards for Resisting Biopiracy...

The Coalition Against Biopiracy is an informal group of civil society and peoples' organisations that first came together at the 1995 Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Jakarta. Groups involved in the coalition include the Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network, SEARICE and ETC Group

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