International Organizations and Environmental Policy

By Robert V. Bartlett; Priya A. Kurian et al. | Go to book overview
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Notably Pat Roy Mooney ( 1979) and Frederick Buttel ( 1992).
"Special genetic stocks" are genetic materials that have been improved to serve certain agricultural purposes, for example, resistance to diseases or pests. These materials have a higher commercial value than unimproved genetic material.
The Undertaking ran counter to existing plant breeders' rights in several industrialized countries, in general, and the Plant Variety Protection Act of the United States in particular.
More specifically, the commission was to monitor the international Undertaking, review the FAO activities in crop and plant genetic resources, and arrange the legislation on seed and plant breeding in relation to the international exchange of plant genetic resources (see, for example, Fowler et al., 1988).
The official position of the United States considered the IBPGR the primary coordinating body at the international level for plant genetic resources ( Fowler et al., 1988:20-21).
Another global issue was "the population bomb," a notion from population biology and demography, codified in popular terms by Paul Ehrlich and the "Limits of Growth," a notion put forward by the Club of Rome. Buttel notes that the "rainforest connection" (a connection between the loss of rainforests and biodiversity) has helped the plant genetic resource issue to become anchored in the environmental movement ideology ( 1992:20).
UNEP receives relatively large voluntary contributions from the United States.
The FAO Convention stated that conservation and utilization of biological diversity and sustainable development of mankind must be closely interrelated.
This regulation focuses not only on plant varieties but on all living organisms.
"Landraces" are varieties, breeds, or cultivars of a crop species associated with traditional agricultural systems, often highly adapted to local conditions.
The draft TRIPs agreement leaves member countries free to decide whether they include not only single plants, but also whole plant varieties and animals in their patent laws. Under this patent law, all unauthorized commercial use of patented plant material in breeding programs may be refused or restricted by the patent holder. If agreed upon, the TRIPs draft will form a powerful tool for patent holders, especially the holders of biotechnology patents covering a large number of genes, to control the current worldwide exchange of plant genetic resources ( Van Wijk and Junne, 1992:85).
The critique by the United States of the UNCED Convention can be opposed by referring to Article 16(2) of the convention which states, "In the case of technology subject to patents and other intellectual property rights . . . access and transfer shall be provided on terms which recognize and are consistent with the adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights" (emphasis added). In other words, according to the convention, access of developing countries to technology in industrialized countries would not harm any commercial interests ( Pistorius, 1992:9).


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