Friday, December 30, 2005

YOUgenics Education Resource Packet

An education resource for high school teachers, put together by Amy Gerber and Kate Loague (of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago) is now available as a free download from the YOUgenics website. It contains lesson plans, an extensive timeline and glossary as well as other resources of value to educators, particularly those in social and natural sciences or the arts. Let us know how you use it, and what you find useful or lacking.

posted by ryan griffis  # 1:17 PM 0 comments links to this post

Stalin's Army of Man Apes

This post from Wifi-Art.com links to a story in the Scotsman:

David Pescovitz: Recently-uncovered documents in Moscow apparently reveal that Josef Stalin hoped to crossbreed humans and apes to create superwarriors. In 1926, animal breeding scientist Illya Ivanov was sent to Africa with $200,000 to begin the project while a laboratory was established in Georgia. After the project didn’t pan out, Ivanov was exiled to Kazakhstan. From The Scotsman:
According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: “I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat…”
Mr Ivanov’s experiments, unsurprisingly from what we now know, were a total failure. He returned to the Soviet Union, only to see experiments in Georgia to use monkey sperm in human volunteers similarly fail.
A final attempt to persuade a Cuban heiress to lend some of her monkeys for further experiments reached American ears, with the New York Times reporting on the story, and she dropped the idea amid the uproar.

posted by ryan griffis  # 12:25 PM 0 comments links to this post

Review of Genetic Agriculture Thus Far

C|Net news has a review of biotech and agriculture that does a good job of pointing out many of the failures and problems with GE crops. It also does a lot of apologizing for the industry and speculates that, despite problems, GE agriculture will win over the world yet. It also makes a couple of misleading claims. One being that GE crops are only 10 years old this year. Ernest Jaworski genetically modified a tobacco and petunia plant to resist antibiotics for Monsanto in 1982. And although it wasn't introduced into the market, the first recombinant product wasn't a crop, but bovine somatotropin (Bst) for dairy cows in 1994. According to Monsanto's official records anyway. The other major misleading statement is that progress in GE crop consumption in the US is the result of consumer acceptance. According to the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, the average US consumer knows little about biotechnology and food, yet do express a desire for strong regulation of biotech and are especially weary of GE animals. The strategy of biotech companies like Monsanto has been to keep the public ill informed all along, and when necessary, develop a strong PR campaign that misleads people as to what is being done with GE.

posted by ryan griffis  # 9:47 AM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Enola Bean Patent Case

The ETC Group just released an update on a case of bio-patenting:

Background: Almost six years ago, ETC Group (then RAFI) denounced the Enola bean patent as "Mexican bean biopiracy" and demanded that the patent be legally challenged and revoked. We requested that FAO and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) investigate the patent as a likely violation of their 1994 Trust agreement that obliges them to keep designated crop germplasm in the public domain and off-limits to intellectual property claims.

It was five years ago that the Colombia-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT, a CGIAR center), with support from FAO, filed an official challenge of the now infamous Enola bean patent at the US-PTO in Washington.

Bean Biopiracy: The Enola bean patent case holds a special place in the "biopiracy hall of shame" because the owner of the patent, the president of a Colorado-based seed company, Larry Proctor, won his patent on a yellow bean variety of Mexican origin. US patent number 5,894,079 was issued April 13, 1999. (Proctor bought a bag of commercial beans in Mexico, planted them in Colorado [US], and did several years of selection.) Not long after, armed with both a US patent and plant breeders' rights certificate, Proctor charged that Mexican farmers were infringing his monopoly by selling yellow beans in the USA. Shipments of yellow beans were stopped at the Mexico/US border, and Mexican farmers lost lucrative markets. Proctor also filed lawsuits against seed companies and farmers in the USA, charging that they infringed his monopoly rights for selling or growing yellow beans from Mexico.

Not-So-Final Rejection: On April 14, 2005 the US-PTO released its "final rejection" - a 26-page decision in which the PTO examiner explains her decision to cancel or reject all of the patent's 64 claims. But wait-not so fast! The PTO bends over backwards to give the patent holder the last word. Proctor was given a six-month period to prepare and file a request to extend the re-examination period. On 14 October 2005 Proctor filed his request and won a 3-month reprieve. ETC Group learned today that the US-PTO has just issued another "final" rejection in response to Proctor's amendments. But, it's still not final! Proctor could file for one more extension - or take the case to a higher board of appeals.

posted by ryan griffis  # 1:07 PM 2 comments links to this post

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Overpopulation, the State and Law

A recent article on Alternet resulted in some interesting discussion about the "problem" of overpopulation. The article discusses illegally forced sterilizations and abortions taking place in localized parts of China. Interestingly, many readers took exception to the critical position of the article, basically arguing that such policy enforcement is warranted by the social and ecological condition of overpopulation. It seems neo-Malthusianism is as strong as ever, and is not just a belief held by US anti-immigration groups. With the ecological and social crises that are emerging, it's a bit disturbing to hear so-called progressives scramble for fascist solutions.
At least one reader comments on the real problem (as I see it): that natural resource depletion is the product of an industrial/urban population that has for way too long existed off of the land and backs of its Global Other. Maybe population is less of a problem than the way those of us in the "civilized world" choose to live.

posted by ryan griffis  # 10:18 PM 0 comments links to this post

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