Wednesday, November 2, 2011

EPO’s reply to accusations

A noisy silence - EPO’s reply to civil society’s accusations
EQUIVITA
Press Release (Translated from Italian by Emilia Mancini)
November 02, 2011

Last week, in spite of uninterrupted rain, over 300 million protesters gathered in Munich to voice their refusal of EPO’s patent policy. The large crowd included a wide range of environment activists, farmers and development organizations from several European countries.

Just outside the main entrance to the majestic building owned by EPO (European Patent Office), the protesters reported the irregularities found in the latest patents granted on living matter (which represents the most precious common good). Such patents even exceed the rather loose limitations imposed by European laws. In fact, not only do they concern plants and animals reproduced through biotechnological processes, but also those reproduced through ‘essentially biological methods’, which do not need to be patented according to the European Patent Convention or to the Directive 98/44 named ‘Directive for the protection of biotechnological inventions’.

Following an appeal filed against the patent on broccoli (EP1069819), it was decided that such a plant would represent a ‘judicial case’ for EPO and that, based on the decision of the High Court of Appeal (the EPO’s inner court), it should be decided whether patents should also be granted on plants reproduced through conventional methods. The Court’s decision was long awaited and arrived three years later. In December 2010, EPO announced that the patent on broccoli’s reproduction procedure was revoked, whereas the patent for the plant itself was left on a standby status.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Protest at Gates campus

Protests greet opening of new Gates Foundation campus
Press Release
AGRA Watch
June 04, 2011

Seattle, WA – On the public opening day of the new Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation campus in Seattle, local activists called attention to the negative aspects of the Foundation’s agricultural development efforts in Africa. Although farmers, activists, and civil society organizations throughout Africa and the US have pointed to fundamental problems with the programs of the Foundation and its subsidiary, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the Foundation has been non-responsive to these concerns.

The majority of the projects funded by Gates promote high-tech industrial agricultural methods and market-driven development – privatizing seed, lobbying for genetically modified crops, increasing farmer debt alongside corporate profits, and encouraging land consolidation. The Foundation’s “theory of change” acknowledges that this approach will ultimately push many small-scale African farmers off of their land, driving them into the cities to swell the numbers of unemployed and marginalized – but seems unperturbed by such consequences. Thus, the agricultural development agenda on the continent is being determined from Seattle instead of locally, and control over African food systems is being transferred from farmers to transnational corporations.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Gates Foundation in Africa

Gates Foundation spends $1.7B on farming in Africa
By Donna Gordon Blankinship
Associated Press
June 01, 2011

SEATTLE — The world’s largest charitable foundation announced five years ago it would spend millions of dollars to fight poverty and hunger in Africa, largely by investing in agriculture. To date, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $1.7 billion, but its leaders say it could take 20 years to see the results of that work.

The foundation has focused on ways to bring to Africa the green revolution that swept Latin America and Asia in the mid-1900s, boosting productivity in those regions. Its hope has been that helping small farmers grow more would allow them to sell their surplus, boosting their income and putting more food in hungry mouths. More than 70 percent of the world’s poor depend on agriculture for both their food and income.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Monsanto’s ‘gift’

Monsanto’s ‘gift’ will benefit its own profits
Letter to the Editor
The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois)
February 14, 2011

A “News in Brief” item in the Jan. 26 Pantagraph was headlined, “Ag Mag program benefits from gift.” I think that a more accurate title would be “Monsanto to benefit from its own gift.”

Why do I say that Monsanto will benefit — i.e., profit — from its gift of $50,000 to the IAA Foundation? The answer is in the article: “The money will enhance biotechnology lessons as part of Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom, specifically developing Ag Mags for fourth-grade and junior high students.” Oh yes, “enhance biotechnology lessons” equals indoctrinate early and don’t let up.

I have seen Monsanto’s “talking points” on the benefits of their biotechnology products — e.g., Roundup Ready soybean and corn seeds — and, of course, the herbicide Roundup to go along with them. Their talking points, which are more accurately described as self-serving propaganda, are repeated endlessly by the Farm Bureau and certain other co-opted, so-called farmer organizations — and even by the University of Illinois Extension Service.

It is clear that we can expect the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom biotechnology lessons, specifically the Ag Mags for fourth-grade and junior-high students, to contain Monsanto’s talking points. Basically, they are that their GMOs, which contain genes from different species transferred into a target species, e.g. soybeans or corn, are all wonderful for farmers, consumers and the environment. Their specific claims under these three umbrellas are false or unproven.

Family organic farming is clearly a superior choice for farmers, consumers and the environment.

Herman Brockman, Rural Congerville

Friday, February 11, 2011

Corporate Food Crusaders

Onward Corporate Food Crusaders!
By Eric Holt Gimenez
The Huffington Post
February 7, 2011

A passage from the late James Michener’s historical novel The Source, dramatizes the Fourth Crusade in which Christian armies from Europe invade the Holy Land. One of Michener’s protagonists is an ambitious nobleman whose main religious motivation is the acquisition of a fiefdom for himself (It seems there were no more to go around in Europe.) In his zeal for empire, he massacres thousands of native eastern Christians (as Crusaders actually did in their siege on Jerusalem). So much for the noble goals of crusades…

History has many ways of repeating itself. Last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the business leaders of the global corporate food regime announced a new Corporate Food Crusade.

Seventeen agrifood monopolies (ADM, BASF, Bunge, Cargill, The Coca-Cola Company, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart Stores and Yara International) rolled out a new report financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation entitled “Realizing a New Vision for Agriculture.”

The monopolies propose “mobilizing the private sector through market-based solutions… to empower farmers and entrepreneurs to reach their full potential.” The report invites governments and civil society to join them in decreasing the portion of rural inhabitants living on less than $1.25 a day by 20% over each of the next two decades. (This admirable goal is considerably less ambitious than the Millennium Development goal of halving, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day by 2015).

A companion report (also financed by Bill Gates) announces the Business Alliance Against Chronic Hunger (BAACH), an offshoot of the Davos group called the Global Agenda Council on Food Security. BAACH calls for business-led solutions to global hunger by expanding markets in agricultural inputs, retail outlets, and sourcing and production of high-value crops.

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