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Benchmarks: 1977 – Present

  • Organized the first public demonstration in the world to raise ethical questions on the use of biotechnology at a National Academies of Science conference held in Washington, DC

  • Provided the main opposition amicus curiae brief in landmark Supreme Court case on the patenting of the first genetically engineered life form.
  • Won landmark federal court suit halting the first government authorized deliberate release of a genetically engineered organism into the environment, pending an environmental assessment of the potential risks. The litigation forced the federal government and countries around the world to establish environmental regulations governing the release of genetically modified organisms into the biosphere.

  • Won federal court suit halting the proposed construction of a high security Department of Defense biological warfare research laboratory at the Dugway proving grounds in Utah, which was to be used to test dangerous and deadly genetically engineered pathogens.

  • Established the Global Greenhouse Network, the first trans-national coalition of NGOs to address the global warming issue. The organization coordinated efforts between scientists and environmental organizations and conducted high visibility media campaigns to focus public attention on global warming. The network also worked with policy leaders in governments around the world to create initiatives to address climate change.

  • Assembled a coalition of the nation's religious leaders and prominent scientists to oppose human germ line therapy – the genetic modification of human sperm, eggs and embryonic cells.

  • Launched legal proceedings to safeguard America's seed banks.

  • Petitioned the Postmaster General to prohibit the transit of dangerous and deadly pathogens through the U.S. mail system. The Postmaster General agreed and halted all handling of deadly pathogens by U.S. mail carriers.

  • Won a court-ordered settlement in federal court  forcing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to amend its guidelines and make public all deliberations and votes on prospective human gene therapy trials.

  • Assembled a coalition of the nation's leading molecular biologists to urge the passage of federal legislation to prohibit genetic discrimination by federal government agencies and private employers.

  • Published Entropy: Into the Greenhouse World, one of the first books on global warming to be translated into all the major languages of the world. The book, and the Green Lifestyle Campaign that followed it, is credited with inspiring much of the early efforts to address climate change and champion renewable energy alternatives among green parties and movements around the world.

  • Consulted in the drafting of the first legislation introduced into the U.S. Congress to prohibit genetic discrimination by employers.

  • Assembled an unprecedented coalition of American religious leaders to oppose the issuing of patents on animal and human genes, tissues, organs, and organisms.

  • Created the National Coalition Against Surrogacy to represent former surrogate mothers and begin a nationwide campaign to outlaw contract surrogacy. Successfully lobbied state legislatures around the country to ban surrogacy contracts.

  • Pursued a high profile public education campaign to prevent the widespread abuse of genetically engineered human growth hormone for cosmetic and enhancement purposes.   

  • Established the Greenhouse Crisis Foundation in the United States. The Foundation worked with environmental organizations, renewable energy groups, and educational institutions to educate the nation’s students and their parents on global warming. The effort was actively supported by a bi-partisan group of more than thirty congressional representatives and senators.

  • Launched an international Beyond Beef Campaign to educate the public on the environmental, health, and ethical impacts of supporting a global cattle culture and eating high up on the food chain with a beef-centered diet.

  • Established the Pure Food Campaign to demand government labeling of all genetically engineered foods. The Campaign was spearheaded by more than 1,500 of the nation's leading chefs.
  • Launched a nationwide consumer boycott of milk and dairy products containing genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (BGH) also known as Bovine Somatotropin (BST). Many of the nation's leading supermarket chains, food processors, dairy cooperatives and distributors agreed to provide consumers with milk and dairy products that are BGH-free.
  • Organized a global coalition of more than two hundred organizations from thirty-five nations in an unprecedented legal challenge at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office against the W.R. Grace Company.  Prominent farm, trade, scientific, and academic groups from around the world filed a formal petition calling for the recinding of W.R Grace’s controversial patent granting the company exclusive use of a pesticide extract from India’s neem tree.
  • Launched the first national campaign to establish criteria for socially responsible investment in public and private pension funds in the United States. Worked with the AFL-CIO, the U.S. Congress, the investment community, and NGOs to leverage pension fund investments for socially responsible ends, including the promotion of sustainable development and renewable energy alternatives.

  • Organized a global coalition of more than 400 women's organizations in more than forty nations to oppose the patenting of the human breast cancer gene. The coalition includes many of America's leading feminists.

  • Launched the first "Global Days of Action," bringing together non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in fifty-three nations for coordinated international public protests and demonstrations to oppose genetically engineered foods, animal and human cloning, and life patents.

  • Launched nationwide Save Organic Standards Campaign (SOS) to prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from including genetically engineered foods under the organic label in the new federal guidelines governing organic food standards. The USDA received over 280,000 letters of protest, which resulted in the withdrawal of the proposed federal standards.

  • Helped facilitate a European Union moratorium on the commercial introduction of genetically modified food crops in Europe.

  • Facilitated the filing of a class action lawsuit against Monsanto, Syngenta, Aventis, and Pioneer in the United States District Court in St. Louis on behalf of United States farmers. The complaint alleges that the four companies formed a global cartel through which they have fixed prices on genetically modified seeds, and conspired to restrain trade in the GM corn and soybean seed markets.

  • Spearheaded a global campaign to shorten the workweek to create more employment and provide greater leisure for working parents to care for their families. The campaign is credited with helping facilitate the thirty-five hour workweek in France and the shortening of workweek schedules across Europe.

  • Submitted a patent application along with Dr. Stuart Newman, the inventor of the patent claim, to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking a patent on all human/animal chimeras. The patent raised fundamental questions regarding how much human material is patentable under existing U.S. statutes.

  • Organized a coalition of three hundred and fifty non-governmental organizations from fifty-two nations in support of an international treaty to declare the gene pool a shared global commons. The treaty would prohibit governments and private institutions from claiming genetic resources as either political or intellectual property. 

  • Assembled a coalition of the nation’s leading progressive policy leaders, academics and activists in support of congressional legislation to prohibit both therapeutic and reproductive human cloning.

  • Mr. Rifkin served as an advisor to Romano Prodi when he was president of the European Commission- the governing body of the European Union. In that capacity, he developed the initial strategic memorandum for the EU outlining the game plan for a hydrogen infrastructure across Europe. The plan he outlined was subsequently accepted by President Prodi and became the basis for a multi- billion dollar research and development initiative across the EU to wean Europe off of fossil fuel dependency, and into renewable energy and a hydrogen regime. 
  • Spearheaded the formation of the Green Hydrogen Network (GHN) to promote renewable energies and a hydrogen economy.  The Network is made up of leading U.S. environmental organizations, including:  Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Rainforest Action Network, US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE), National Association of State PIRGs, Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), and Snake River Alliance. 
  • Helped facilitate the creation of the European Parliamentary Leadership Group for the Hydrogen Economy.  Fifty European Union parliamentary leaders of all 6 major European political parties - The Popular party, Party of the European Socialists (PES), Alliance of the Liberal Democrats of Europe (ALDE), Green group, European Unity of the Left (GUE), and Union of European Nations (UEN) - have made the commitment to push ahead on plans to make the EU the first renewable energy hydrogen economy in the world.
  • Provided the analytical foundation and strategic vision for the Hydrogen Cities plan, an economic interest group created to bring a hydrogen economy into practice, by planning and implementing hydrogen and fuel cells based projects on the municipal level, and also promoting hydrogen production centers that use renewable energies.
  • In May 2007, the European Parliament passed an historic legislative initiative committing the legislative body of Europe to a 5-part program to usher in a renewable energy era, a green hydrogen economy and Third Industrial Revolution. FOET drafted the declaration and spent three years mobilizing the Parliament’s support for the landmark legislative initiative.
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