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Treaty to Share Genetic Commons Document (English)

 

We proclaim these truths to be universal and indivisible;

That the intrinsic value of the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, precedes its utility and commercial value, and therefore must be respected and safeguarded by all political, commercial and social institutions,

That the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, exists in nature and, therefore, must not be claimed as intellectual property even if purified and synthesized in the laboratory,

                   That the global gene pool, in all of its biological forms            

                   and manifestations, is a shared legacy and, therefore, a

                   collective responsibility,

And,

Whereas, our increasing knowledge of biology confers a special obligation to serve as a steward on behalf of the preservation and well being of our species as well as all of our other fellow creatures,

Therefore, the nations of the world declare the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, to be a global commons, to be protected and nurtured by all peoples and further declare that genes and the products they code for, in their natural, purified or synthesized form as well as chromosomes, cells, tissue, organs and organisms, including cloned, transgenic and chimeric organisms, will not be allowed to be claimed as commercially negotiable genetic information or intellectual property by governments, commercial enterprises, other institutions or individuals.

The Parties to the treaty - to include signatory nation states and Indigenous Peoples - further agree to administer the gene pool as a trust. The signatories acknowledge the sovereign right and responsibility of every nation and homeland to oversee the biological resources within their borders and determine how they are managed and shared. However, because the gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, is a global commons, it cannot be sold by any institution or individual as genetic information. Nor can any institution or individual, in turn, lay claim to the genetic information as intellectual property.
 

CONTEXT STATEMENT

We, the undersigned, would like to enlist your active support in a new initiative to establish the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, as a global commons to be jointly shared by all peoples.

Our aim is to prohibit all patents on plant, microorganism, animal, and human life including patents on genes and the products they code for, in their natural, purified or synthesized form, as well as chromosomes, cells, tissues, organs and organisms including cloned, transgenic and chimeric organisms.

We feel the time is right for a broad challenge on all patents on life and believe that this initiative can rally widespread public support across the entire political spectrum and among every major social constituency and interest group.

How does this initiative differ from current efforts underway – the Biological Diversity Convention, the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, TRIPS, etc. – to establish a global regime to govern and regulate the use of biological resources? Our initiative adopts some common themes but differs in one very fundamental respect. Unlike the other initiatives, we oppose the extension of intellectual property rights to any living thing as well as the components of all living things. We believe that our evolutionary heritage is not a negotiable commodity. While we hail the good intentions of both the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources (IU), their goal of equitably sharing the earth's biological heritage can only be realized by prohibiting all commercial patents on life.

We agree with the position that the gene pool and its products are a global commons – a position often put forward by the life science companies and some governments, including the United States. Unfortunately, the life science companies have misinterpreted and misappropriated the term "global commons" to claim unlimited access to the world’s genetic diversity for the purposes of converting it into private intellectual property. They have failed to understand that because the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, is a global commons and, therefore, a product of nature, it cannot be claimed, in whole or in part, as intellectual property.

We agree with the position, often extolled by the group of 77 and China, that governments and Indigenous Peoples have the sovereign responsibility to oversee the biological resources within their borders and determine how they are managed and shared. However, because the gene pool is a global commons, it cannot be sold by any institution or individual as genetic information.

All of the current arrangements and consultative initiatives, to the extent that they are based on the principle of selling "prospecting rights" to genetic information and extending intellectual property protection to life, are unacceptable mechanisms for governing the gene pool in the Age of Biology.

The Treaty to Share the Genetic Commons is designed to make every government and Indigenous Peoples a "caretaker" of their geographic part of the global genetic commons and to establish the appropriate statutory mechanisms to ensure both national sovereignty and open access to the flow of genetic information, in the spirit of collective responsibility for our shared evolutionary legacy.

It is our intention to reach out to civil society organizations, political parties, and governments around the world to enlist broad popular support for this initiative. We are on the cusp of an historic transformation from the Age of Physics and Chemistry to the Age of Biology. It is critical, at the dawn of this new era, that we establish our collective responsibility for stewarding the earth’s gene pool.

Those of us writing to you today wish to express our strong commitment to the core message and goals in the draft treaty. We also wish to assure you and our other colleagues in civil society that your advice and input are both needed and welcome and that we fully expect the language of the text to be altered with discussion. In sending you this draft at this time, we are seeking your ideas as well as asking for your support, in principle, for the values expressed in the treaty.

We look forward to discussing this with you by e-mail and in person in the days ahead.

Yours sincerely,

  • Alejandro Argumendo, Director, Asociacion Quechua-Aymara ANDES / Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network (IPBN)
     

  • Maude Barlow, National Chairperson, Council of Canadians
     

  • Bill Christison, President, National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC)
     

  • Neth Dano, Executive Director, South East Asian Regional Institute for Community Education (SEARICE)
     

  • Jaydee Hanson, Assistant General Secretary, Public Witness and Advocacy, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
     

  • Debra Harry, Executive Director, Indigenous People’s Council on Biocolonialism (IPCB)
     

  • Randy Hayes, President, Rainforest Action Network (RAN)
     

  • Dena Hoff, Representative and Spokeswoman, The Via Campesina International
     

  • Deborah Kaplan, Executive Director, World Institute on Disability (WID)
     

  • Jerry Mander, President, International Forum on Globalization (IFG)
     

  • Camila Montecinos, Jefe Programa de Biodiversidad (Head of Biodiversity Program), Centro de Educación y Tecnología (CET)
     

  • Pat Roy Mooney, Executive Director, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC)
     

  • Andrew T. Mushita, Director, Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT)
     

  • Fabrizia Pratesi, Architect Coordinator, Comitato Scientifico Antivivisezionista (CSA)
     

  • Jeremy Rifkin, President, Foundation on Economic Trends (FOET)
     

  • Mark Ritchie, President, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)
     

  • Vandana Shiva, Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
     

  • Martin Teitel, President, Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG)
     

 

 

 

Press Release

February 1, 2002: English (MS Word)

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