Thursday, May 22, 2008


On April 21, Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara dismissed the government’s entire indictment against Dr. Steven Kurtz as “insufficient on its face.” This means that even if the actions alleged in the indictment (which the judge must accept as “fact”) were true, they would not constitute a crime. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) had thirty days from the date of the ruling to appeal. No action has been taken in this time period, thus stopping any appeal of the dismissal. The only option left for the DoJ would be to re-indict Kurtz.

A Press Release with details will be coming soon.

posted by ryan griffis  # 1:33 PM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, May 19, 2008

Biopiracy + Climate Change

The ETC Group (yes, I report on their reports a lot) just release a couple of significant news releases...
1. The US Patent & Trademark Office (this past April) ruled against the controversial patent on the "Enola" bean. This story is particularly interesting in a number of ways. The bean's nume, at least as it's known in the US, is derived from the (former) patent holder's wife's name. The "Enola" bean is actually a quite common variety of yellow-colored beans (such as the azufrado and mayocoba - the ones that the Enola is derived from) that John Proctor brought back from Mexico and cultivated in the US in the mid 1990s (the patent was issued in 1999). Proctor's patent actually had the effect of preventing these beans - grown for centuries - from being imported into the US, as they were considered in violation of patent law.
The ETC Group is less than celebratory of the decision, however, noting that:
the U.S. patent system allowed the owner of a flagrantly unjust patent to legally monopolize markets and destroy competition - for close to half the 20-year patent term.
2. Biotech companies - like Monsanto, DuPont, BASF, Bayer, Mendel, Ceres, Evogene and Dow - are reportedly stockpiling patents on genetic material related to climate change. They assert that these companies see an opportunity to cash in on the environmental stresses of impending climate change by gaining ownership over advantageous genetic traits. ETC levels a critique of catastrophic climate change scare tactics being used by some government and corporate interests to advance their accumulation of capital, while also pointing out the problems with the utopian rhetoric that biotechnology will save the world from a climate-driven food crisis. The ETC Group's report is available here.

posted by ryan griffis  # 12:31 PM 0 comments links to this post

Friday, May 02, 2008

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act Passed

The New York Times reports on the recent unanimous US Senate passage of a bill that has been in the works for about 12 years. Of course, read against the developments of genetic databases like CODIS, discussed in my last post, it's difficult to know what to make of this exactly. Of course, genetic discrimination in the workplace and obtaining health insurance is a reality, so GINA at least addresses the legal obligation of the state to intervene in obvious instances of corporate abuse. But, if, as synthetic biology guru Craig Venter has supposedly said, genetic testing would render virtually everyone uninsurable by insurers' definitions of risk, then there's obviously a much more complicated situation unfolding here than a simple one of easily identifiable discrimination.
The general discussion doesn't even touch on concerns of bio-colonialism, or how this wave of science and commerce will differ from previous waves in its effects on expendable and oppressed peoples.

posted by ryan griffis  # 8:52 PM 0 comments links to this post


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