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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  March 2002

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE March 2002

Subject:

Progressive NGO Applies For Ownership of British "Chip"

From:

Sam Anderson <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 3 Mar 2002 21:11:11 -0800

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (186 lines)

==================
P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service
=========================

NGO Applies For Ownership of British "Chip"

March 1, 2002

In a move to demonstrate the defects of international patent
laws, the
British non-governmental organization ActionAid is applying for
a patent
on the famous British "chip," a french-fried potato that is a
key part
of one of the country's favorite fast food dishes, fish and chips.

In cooperation with Professor Leo Pyle, a food scientist at Reading
University, the London-based organization created a brand of
"ready-salted" chip that it calls the ActionAid Chip. In February,
the
group filed an application for registering the "invention" with
the
British patents office.

To be granted a patent, applicants must prove that the product
they have
created is their "invention," or that they have altered the product
in
some way that makes it "novel." All of the ingredients used to
make the
ActionAid Chip -- namely salt and potatoes -- are natural, but
putting
salt on top of chips and combining the two foods in such a "novel"
way
should be enough to be granted a patent, the group said.

"This is no joke," said Maya Vaughan, an ActionAid spokeswoman.
"We are
able to make this claim under new patent rules that allow companies
to
get exclusive rights over basic foods and even nature itself,"
she
added.

If ActionAid is granted a broad patent, its legal advisors say
that it
could win the rights over any chips sold commercially that have
the same
properties as the ActionAid Chip, i.e. those with added salt.
Although
the group has no intention of doing so, with a patent it could
control
how the product was produced and sold, and require chip-shop
owners in
the United Kingdom to pay it license fees for permission to add
salt to
their chips. Over 300 million servings of chips with added salt
are sold
commercially each year.

There are almost one thousand patents on rice, wheat, maize,
soybean and
sorghum -- the five staple crops that constitute 70% of the world's
food
supply. Six major agrochemical corporations -- Aventis, Dow,
DuPont,
Mitsui, Monsanto and Syngenta -- own 30% of the global seed market
and
98% of the global market for genetically engineered crops.

By modifying genes of plants or cross-breeding varieties and
"allowing
patents on plants that are clearly not 'inventions,' the current
patent
system is giving agrochemical corporations unprecedented control
over
the food chain," the group commented.

ActionAid explains that patents can have a serious impact on
the 75% of
people in poor countries whose livelihoods depend on agriculture
--
totaling millions of people worldwide. Under companies' licensing
agreements, farmers using patented seeds cannot save, exchange
or
replant them, and must buy new seeds every year or risk prosecution.
"Farmers in poor countries are faced with the prospect of having
to pay
for the right to grow food that they have been growing for generations
or risk infringement of the patent. This is an outrage," commented
Salil
Shetty, ActionAid's chief executive.

Citing the example of agrochemical companies in Pakistan that
have
succeeded in removing their liability under national laws for
any
"hazardous effects" of their patented crops, ActionAid criticizes
companies for wanting control over crops but refusing to take
responsibility for any negative consequences.

The gathering and patenting plants and food crops from poor communities
across Asia, Latin America and Africa by scientists from U.S.
and
European companies amounts to more than what the U.N. calls "the
silent
theft of knowledge from developing countries," according to ActionAid.

Instead, the group explains, there is also the potential for
developing
countries to lose vital export earnings. ActionAid notes the
example of
the Mexican yellow bean patented by Larry Proctor, the president
of a
U.S.-based seed company, after bringing some of the beans back
to the
U.S. following a trip to Mexico.

Proctor applied for and won an exclusive monopoly patent on the
seed,
making it illegal to grow beans in the U.S. or import them without
paying royalty payments to the patent holder. The export earnings
of
Mexican farmers who had been growing and exporting the beans
for
generations came under threat, as demonstrated by Proctor's legal
action
against two U.S. seed importers who tried to do business with
Mexican
farmers.

The international rules that allow the patenting of food and
agriculture
are currently under review. Part of the World Trade Organization,
the
rules are enshrined in the Trade Related Intellectual Property
Rights,
or "TRIPS," agreement. ActionAid is calling on British Prime
Minister
Tony Blair and the British government to withdraw their support
for food
patenting.

For more information, see
http://www.actionaid.org/ourpriorities/foodrights/foodrights.shtml.

Sources: ActionAid Press Release, February 11, 2002; OneWorld
UK,
February 12, 2002.

Contact: Action Aid, Hamlyn House, Macdonald Road Archway, London
N19
5PG, U.K.; phone (44-20) 7561-7561; fax (44-20) 7272-0899; email
[log in to unmask]; Web site http://www.actionaid.org.

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides
and
reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage
by the
mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North
America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working
to
advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

You can join our efforts! We gladly accept donations for our
work and
all contributions are tax deductible in the United States. Visit
http://www.panna.org/donate.


=========================
==================
To comment, send a message to:
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[log in to unmask]

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA
Phone: (415) 981-1771
Fax: (415) 981-1991
Email: [log in to unmask]
Web: http://www.panna.org

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