31 March 2006

Africa suffers 36 cases of biopiracy

Ghana web
(March 31st, 2006)

A recent report detailing 36 cases of bio-piracy in Africa has been creating ripples at international meetings negotiating a fair deal for developing countries to benefit from their genetic resources and traditional knowledge.“Bio-piracy”, according to the publishers, is a term that refers to “the acquisition of biodiversity, i.e., biological material (plants, animals, microorganism, and their parts), or of traditional knowledge related to that biodiversity, without the prior informed consent of those whose biodiversity or traditional knowledge has been taken.” The report, entitled “Out of Africa: Mysteries of Access and Benefit Sharing” provides 36 brief case studies of medicines, cosmetics and agricultural products that originate from biodiversity (including plants, marine life and microbes) in African countries and that have been patented by multinational companies without there being evidence of benefits accruing to the countries of origin.
Published by the US-based Edmonds Institute with the collaboration of the African Centre for Biosafety based in South Africa, the report was released at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which discussed international rules to regulate bioprospecting and ensure fair and equitable benefits to countries and communities that provide biological resources and associated traditional knowledge.
The report made a strong impact on delegates at the 4th Meeting of the Working Group on Access and Benefit Sharing in Granada in January. The biological resources concerned are for medicinal, agricultural, horticultural and cosmetics uses. In most cases there are no evidence or even information of benefit sharing agreements. Some of the patents claimed also appear highly questionable. Thus, the report calls for each case to be further investigated and in greater detail.
The report’s author, Jay McGown, says in the introduction: “It’s a free for all out there, and until the parties to the CBD solve the problems of access and benefit sharing, the robbery will continue. They’ve got to declare a moratorium on access until a just protocol is finished and implemented. Mariam Mayet, Executive Director of the African Centre for Biosafety, speaking at a panel discussion during the CBD meeting said: “In just one month of searches of various databases including the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office, we discovered these cases across the African continent. It was a shock to see the number of patents given or being claimed.”
Co-panelist Dr. Ossama El Tayeb, head of the Egyptian delegation at the meeting, called the report the tip of an iceberg. There were five possible cases of biopiracy involving Egypt in the report. Reports such as this emphasised the urgency for a legally binding global treaty to prevent biopiracy. Developed countries and their pharmaceutical, agriculture and biotechnolgy industries are very strongly against the inclusion of derivatives in the scope of the international regime. Edmonds Institute President, Beth Burrows, described the report as “a litany of cases of suspicious biodiversity acquisition.”
One of the best known and most recent cases of bio-piracy involves Hoodia, an appetite suppressant that capitalized on the traditional knowledge of the indigenous San people in South Africa. Developed and patented by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), exclusive rights were sold to a British company. It was only after worldwide outcry that a miniscule percentage of the royalties were made available to the San in the form of a trust. The Hoodia case is still cited as an example of inadequate benefit sharing and questionable prior informed consent. Mariam Mayet said: “When you look at what has been taken in the recent past from African countries, it runs the gamut from biodiversity used for medicine to biodiversity used for agriculture, horticulture, cosmetics, and industrial purposes.
It’s unbelievable how much has been taken without a public accounting and without any permission from the communities and peoples involved”. “There’s a huge amount to be accounted for,” Burrows noted. “It’s not easy to prove biopiracy. Where contracts are not published and national rules of access and benefit sharing may not exist or are not attended to by bioprospectors, or the companies and institutions they represent, it is difficult to verify claims of theft, even when you catch the thieves with the booty in hand, or in their patent portfolios.”
The developing countries are also bringing up the biopiracy issue in two other key fora: the WTO (where they are asking that the TRIPS Agreement be amended to require disclosure of the origin of genetic resources and evidence of consent and benefit sharing) and at the WIPO (where they are asking that the issue be included in the negotiations on a substantive patent law treaty). The following is a selection of 11 cases from the 36 cases in the Edmonds Institute report on biopiracy in Africa:
— Diabetes Drug produced by a microbe from Kenya: Acarbose is a drug taken by Type II diabetics. The German company Bayer filed a patent on a new way to manufacture the product. According to the 1995 application, a actinoplanes sp. Bacteria strain called SE50 has unique genes enabling the biosynthesis of acarbose in fermentors and the strain comes from Kenya’s Lake Ruiru. The author found no evidence of benefit sharing of this valuable microbe.
— Extracts from a medicinal plant Artemista judaica from Libya, Egypt and other North African countries for the treatment of diabetes was patented by a UK company, Phytopharm Plc. It admits that the plant has been used in Libyan traditional medicine for the treatment of diabetes. However, despite the explicit declaration of a lack of novelty, the US Patent Office has granted the patent. The author said he could not find a company intellectual property policy on the traditional knowledge it patents nor any evidence of a benefit sharing agreement related to this patent.
— Antibiotics from a termite hill found in Gambia: In the 1970s, rapamycin, an immunosuppressive drug that is used in medicine (for example, to prevent rejection of organ transplant) was discovered from a Streptomyces sample collected in the Easter Island. The discovery of rapamycin sparked a search for other Streptomyces that produce similar compounds. SmithKline Beecham (now Glaxo SmithKline) has claimed a compound from a Streptomyces strain that it says was isolated from a termite hill at Abuke, Gambia. The strain produces a rapamycin-related compound called 29-desmethylrapamycin and, according to the patent, it is useful both as an anti-fungal and as an immunosuppressant. However, no information was found about any benefit sharing arrangements between the company and Gambia.
— Four multipurpose medicinal plants that were obtained from Ehtiopia and neighbouring countries: A researcher in Tennessee has obtained a US patent on four African medicinal plants. The patent makes sweeping claims for preparations of the plant extracts and against ‘breast cancer, leukemia, melanoma and myeloma’ and ‘viral infection, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, tuberculosis, or fungal infections.’ The patent covers use of Millettia ferruginea alone or with one or more of the three other medicinal plants that are claimed— Glinus lotoides, Ruta chalepensis and Hagenia abyssinica. All of the plants grow in Ethiopia and have medicinal uses there as well as in some other countries. Despite the patent, little appears new about the medicinal uses claimed for these plants. The author could not find any benefit-sharing agreement.
— Drug addiction treatment from Iboga plant that has long been used in Central and West Africa. In low doses, it serves as a stimulant to maintain alertness, for example, while hunting. In larger does, it is a hallucinogen, traditionally used for religious purposes. But in recent years, it has drawn the interest of drug addiction researchers as Iboga reportedly has the effect of ending cravings for addictive substances, such as heroin and nicotine. There is thus great interest in Iboga to cure some drug addictions. Numerous patents have been taken out on Iboga, but the author could not find any evidence of benefit sharing related to Iboga.
— Multipurpose Kombo Butter derived from Central and West Africa: Kombo butter, an extract of the African nutmeg (Pycnanthus angolensis), has been used in Europe and North America since at least the 1970s, when it was identified as the source of cetyl myristoleate, a ‘dietary supplement’ used to treat arthritis. The plant is native to Central Africa. As a vegetable-derived fatty acid, it is suitable for personal care products and because it is of plant origin, it can be used in products that are Kosher, Halal and ‘non-animal’. As a result, a wave of intellectual property claims is being made on kombo butter. Although African exporters are presumbably being paid as suppliers of raw or semi-possessed kombo butter, there was no evidence of any benefit sharing agreement related to use of Pycnanthus angolensis as a genetic resource.
— Groundnuts from Malawi: The University of Florida has filed for plant breeders’ rights on eight varieties of groundnuts since 2000. One of those varieties, called C-99R, is a ‘runner’ type. The University of Florida has licensed C-99R to the Golden Peanut Company, a peanut processor with operations in major peanut-producing areas in the US and Argentina. C-99R has important African origins. Plant variety registration materials make clear that one of C-99R’s major and direct parents comes from the USDA’s plant collection (PI 259785) from Malawi. PI 259785 was collected in 1959 and the Malawian variety bears important disease resistance characteristics that are present in C-99R. The author found no evidence of benefit-sharing with Malawi.
— Ocean resources from African countries: Since the entry into force of the CBD, patenting of marine resources (such as sponge extracts from Cape Verde, Kenya and Eritrea, Seychelles and South Africa, sea hare extracts from Mauritius, tunicate extracts from Comoros) has been on the rise. However, there are as yet no clear rules governing deep sea bio-prospecting. The author, however, could not find a benefit sharing agreement related to any of these patents. If there are agreements, their terms appear to be private.
— The cancer fighting agent of Bitterleaf from Sub-Saharan Africa: A scientist at Jackson State University in the US obtained a US patent in 2005 on extracts of Vernonia amygdalina, an African medicinal plant called Bitterleaf which is native to most of sub-Saharan Africa and is used in many countries. According to the patent, the extracts are effective against cancer. The inventor obtained samples in Benin City, Nigeria. Questions arise as to whether the invention is new and if benefits derived from its use will be shared.
— Infection-fighting mycobacteria from Uganda: A mycobacteria collected in Uganda is the 1970s has been patented at least five times in the US. It covers use of a Mycobacterium vaccae called R877R, against chronic viral infections, including HIV. According to the patent, R877R was originally isolated from mud samples collected in Central Uganda. The owner is a British company, SR Pharma, Plc. SR Pharma’s website indicates that more R877R patents and commercialization may be coming soon but there is no mention of benefit sharing.
— Cosmetics from the baobab tree: The baobab tree, which has great cultural symbolism, grows in much of Africa. The German company Cognis has obtained patents in many countries (starting with France in 1997) for use of baobab leaf extracts in cosmetic products. Cognis’ ‘invention’ is to use the baobab leaf mucilage as a soothing cream. But baobab has a wide variety of traditional medicinal and other uses in Africa, including use of the leaves and use on the skin. Therefore it seems most unlikely that Cognis was the first to discover the soothing effects of baobab mucilage when applied to the human body.
Author: Chee Yoke Heong (TWN)

Países iberoamericanos crearán una red proteger biodiversidad

Terra Actualidad - EFE
biodiversidad-conferencia 29-03-2006

España, Portugal y todos los países latinoamericanos crearán una red que agrupará a los responsables de la conservación del patrimonio natural y la biodiversidad con el fin de reforzar la protección de espacios naturales.
El secretario general para la Biodiversidad y el Territorio del Ministerio de Medio Ambiente español, Antonio Serrano, destacó que estos países corroboraron su voluntad de trabajar juntos en la protección del medio ambiente en la última Cumbre Iberoamericana.Serrano encabeza la delegación española que participa en la Conferencia de las Partes del Convenio de Biodiversidad Biológica de la ONU, y preside, junto al presidente del Consejo Nacional de Medio Ambiente de Perú, Carlos Loret de Mola, uno de los cuatro grupos de trabajo en que se llevan a cabo las negociaciones.
La nueva red persigue, informó Serrano, mejorar la protección de los espacios naturales, fomentar la capacitación profesional de los trabajadores de este sector, poner en marcha conjuntamente proyectos de colaboración multinacional, y propiciar el intercambio de información entre países.El representante de la delegación española comparó esta red con otras ya existentes en el ámbito iberoamericano, y se refirió a la Red Iberoamericana de Oficinas de Cambio Climático y a los resultados que ya ha conseguido desde que se puso en marcha hace un año.Algunos países han avanzado ya, en el marco de la Conferencia que se celebra en Curitiba, en algunos proyectos conjuntos de colaboración.España y Colombia trabajarán conjuntamente en proyectos relacionados con la gestión de la red de espacios naturales del país latinoamericano y con la capacitación profesional de las personas que trabajan en este campo.

NGOs want native forests to be included in carbon credit trade system

Thaís BrianeziReporter - Agência BrasilPinhais (Paraná) -

On Friday (24), the fifth day of the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Biological Diversity Convention (COP-8), the Brazilian Forum of NGOs and Social Movements for the Environment and Development (FBOMs) issued a document with practical suggestions on how to deal with the relationship between climate changes and forest destruction. One of the suggestions is to include native forests, which are still untouched, in the sale of carbon credits, meant to valorize the carbon dioxide absorbed by trees.
This would be beneficial to the Amazon region. The general goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (also known as the Climate Convention or CDB) is to diminish the concentration of greenhouse gas effects in the atmosphere, for the purpose of retarding global warming. One of the means to achieve this result is the Kyoto Protocol, which requires countries to reduce gas emissions by 5% between 2008 and 2012. The Protocol also establishes Clean Development Mechanisms, creating a market in carbon credits. In effect, countries that exceed their emission quotas must pay for the excess gas they send into the environment.
One way they can do this to finance forest recovery projects anywhere in the world."The Kyoto Protocol omitted native forests, ignoring their maintenance," observed Rubens Bom, coordinator of the FBOMs' Climate Change Work Group and the NGO, Vitae Civilis. "But deforestation is already responsible for 20% of global gas emissions. The use of fossil fuel, especially from petroleum, is the biggest cause of global warming. Moreover, maintaining the forest intact protects biodiversity and traditional cultures. It represents a fundamental environmental service, which should be compensated.""This mechanism is important, of course. But we should also bear in mind patterns of consumption and development models," commented the director of the Institute of Amazonian Studies (IPAM), Paulo Moutinho. "In the Brazilian Amazon we live in a state of schizophrenia: We have a fantastic plan to combat deforestation, with excellent results. But we also offer agribusiness incentives and huge infrastructure projects, which have a big environmental impact."
Marcelo Furtado, the director of Brazil Greenpeace campaigns, said that the FBOMs report represents a response to the last Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention, which determined March 31 as the date for countries to express themselves on how they see the relationship between forest preservation governance and climatic balance. "Since Brazil has still not presented its official report, which should occur in the next week, we hope that our report can help make the formulation of the country's report more participatory."The FBOMs, which include approximately 500 organizations and civil society movements, was created in 1990. The COP is the deliberative body of the CDB. It meets every two years. The meeting in Curitiba is being attended by 3,600 representatives of 173 countries. In all, the CDB has 187 signatory nations, in addition to the European Union.
Translation: David Silberstein

El Mercosur acordó declaración conjunto sobre biodiversidad

Miércoles 29 de Marzo de 2006 - 11:50 hs.
Territorio digital

Los países del Mercosur firmaron hoy en Curitiba, Brasil, la Declaración de Ministros de Medio Ambiente sobre Estrategia de Biodiversidad del bloque, con el objetivo de establecer directrices y lineamientos prioritarios para la integración de políticas comunes en esa materia.Bajo la presidencia "pro tempore" de la Argentina, en la figura del Secretario de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, Atilio Savino, esta primera reunión extraordinaria se realizó en el marco de la VIII Conferencia de las Partes del Convenio de Biodiversidad (COP 8), que finaliza el próximo 31 en esa ciudad del sur brasileño.Los países del Mercosur, que comparten un conjunto de ecorregiones continentales y marinas con gran diversidad de especies de fauna, flora y microorganismos, acordaron de esta manera promover hasta el 2010 avances significativos en la implementación de la estrategia.Entre estos avances, se comprometieron a conservar y usar de manera sostenible ecosistemas, especies y recursos genéticos in situ, con acciones complementarias ex situ, valorando adecuadamente los componentes de la biodiversidad.También, promover el acceso a los recursos genéticos, desarrollar e intercambiar conocimientos científicos y tecnológicos, y mantener, respetar y preservar los conocimientos, innovaciones y prácticas de las comunidades indígenas y locales.Los países del Mercosur establecieron por su parte, promover la integración entre los objetivos y medidas de protección de la biodiversidad en las demás políticas sectoriales, y sensibilizar y concientizar a la población, los agentes públicos y privados, y a la comunidad internacional.

28 March 2006

Brazil Plans to Expand Amazon Protection

By MICHAEL ASTOR, Associated Press Writer Mon Mar 27, 7:10 PM ET

CURITIBA, Brazil - Brazil announced plans to expand protection of the
Amazon rain forest, and its president on Monday called on wealthy nations to do more to protect the environment.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva blamed industrialized nations for the "unsustainable patterns of production and consumption."
"It is unacceptable that poorer nations continue to suffer the main burden of environmental degradation," the Brazilian leader told cabinet ministers from more than 90 countries. His remarks came at the opening of three days of high-level talks at the eighth biannual Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, sponsored by the United Nations.
The talks are a major test to the cabinet ministers' commitment to the 1992 treaty; and a U.N. report released at the conference said species were being lost at the fastest rate since the disappearance of dinosaurs — or as much as 1,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction.
"In a sense we are at a crossroads," said Marcelo Furtado of the environmental group Greenpeace.
Furtado said without tangible results from the conference, "pressing environmental issues could end up being dealt with at other forums like the World Trade Organization, where economic considerations take greater priority."
The Convention on Biological Diversity arose from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where more than 100 world leaders recognized that the world's environment was in danger and pledged to take steps to protect it.
The 11-day convention in Curitiba — 400 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro — runs through Friday and is aimed at reviewing progress made toward goals set out at the Earth Summit.
Brazil's Environmental Ministry said late Sunday that 84,000 square miles of the Amazon rain forest — an area about the size of Kansas — would be declared a protected zone over the next three years.
The campaign is part of the Amazon Protected Areas Program, which banned development in some regions and created sustainable development zones in others.
The world's largest remaining wilderness, the Amazon region covers nearly half of Brazil and extends into five neighboring countries.
Greenpeace released maps last weeks showing that less than 10 percent of the world's forests remained intact, and environmentalists said governments worldwide have failed to honor their commitments to the Global Fund for the Environment, another product of the Earth Summit, leaving the fund with only $10 billion — or $67 billion less than promised.

27 March 2006

Los pueblos indígenas reclaman en Brasil poder decidir sobre la explotación de los recursos naturales

brasil 27-03-2006
Terra Actualidad - Europa Press

(de la enviada especial de EUROPA PRESS, María García)

El Foro Internacional Indígena para la Biodiversidad reclamó hoy en la octava reunión de las Partes del Convenio de Diversidad Biológica (COP8) que se celebra en Curitiba (Brasil) poder decidir sobre la explotación de los recursos naturales, ser informados del uso de los recursos genéticos de los ecosistemas en los que viven y que se les reconozca su derecho a decir que no a un proyecto que se vaya a desarrollar en sus áreas.El presidente del Foro Internacional Indígena para la Biodiversidad, el mapuche chileno José Naín, explicó hoy en rueda de prensa que el Convenio de Biodiversidad no puede ser aplicado sin los indígenas porque estos pueblos son los que viven donde están los recursos, pero advirtió de que en este Convenio se les mantiene al margen de las decisiones, porque son los Estados y las empresas los que deciden cómo proteger la biodiversidad y cómo acceder a los recursos, sin consultarles.
La primera reivindicación de los pueblos indígenas es el reconocimiento de su existencia y sus derechos dentro de cada país, para poder tener voz en la toma de decisiones sobre creación de áreas protegidas o preservación de los conocimientos tradicionales. Naín criticó el Convenio de Biodiversidad por ser 'un negocio de los países desarrollados y las empresas, que regulan y ponen precio a la biodiversidad', mientras que los pueblos indígenas son considerados observadores. Naín contó cómo los indígenas están siendo 'amenazados y desplazados' de sus regiones: primero con la colonización de sus tierras y después, por parte de los propios estados que anexionan sus territorios a los de la jurisdicción nacional.
Una de las paradojas que sufren los indígenas se da con la creación de áreas protegidas, un instrumento que 'a priori' protege la biodiversidad, pero que en la práctica está suponiendo una amenaza para las comunidades indígenas y sus conocimientos, ya que las normas de las áreas protegidas les impiden usar los recursos que han venido utilizando a los largos de cientos de generaciones.
'No nos matan con armas, nos matan culturalmente, porque al no tener acceso a los recursos, cortan nuestra vida cultural, y esa es la forma que tienen los estados de excluirnos', comentó este mapuche chileno, que ha sido invitado por la Fundación Biodiversidad del Ministerio español de Medio Ambiente a participar en la COP8. En Chile, el 10 por ciento de la población es indígena mapuche.
El Foro Internacional Indígena para la Biodiversidad está integrado por unos 150 pueblos indígenas de todos los continentes y reclaman desde hace una década tener voz propia en las Cumbres y que sus conocimientos tradicionales sean protegidos

Brasil impulsa régimen de biodiversidad

Fecha Publicación: 03/26/2006 12:00:00 a.m.
Radio Nacional de Panamá

Resumen: Detener la pérdida de biodiversidad y lograr un régimen internacional de acceso a los recursos genéticos serán las dos prioridades de Brasil en la Presidencia de la VIII Conferencia de las Partes de la Convención sobre Diversidad Biológica (COP-8)

Nuestra consigna es implementación, ya existe una gran cantidad de acuerdos internacionales que necesitan traducirse en acciones concretas", dijo la ministra que presidirá la COP-8, entre el 20 y el 31 de marzo en la meridional ciudad brasileña de Curitiba. "Vamos trabajar en los próximos dos años para que el régimen internacional tenga un carácter vinculante y obligatorio y que no sea entendido como algo para facilitar el acceso, sino para viabilizar la protección, el uso sustentable y el reparto de los beneficios", anunció. La adopción de un régimen de acceso y reparto equitativo de los beneficios de la riqueza biológica es un aspecto clave para cumplir en 2010 la meta central de la Convención: detener la alarmante pérdida de diversidad de hábitat y especies animales y vegetales. Brasil ya cuenta con el apoyo de España para conquistar la adhesión de la Unión Europea y pretende intensificar las articulaciones políticas con los 17 países megadiversos (de gran diversidad biológica) durante la COP-8, informó Silva.
Otro de sus propósitos es anunciar, durante la conferencia, un proyecto de ley nacional para regular el acceso a la biodiversidad, asegurando los derechos de las comunidades locales. La ministra no concurrió al primer día de sesiones de la tercera Reunión de las Partes del Protocolo de Cartagena sobre Seguridad en la Biotecnología (MOP-3), el lunes en Curitiba, pero anunció en Sao Paulo una esperada definición de su país sobre la identificación de cargamentos de productos transgénicos (OVM, organismos vivos modificados) en el transporte y comercio internacional. El Protocolo, en vigor desde septiembre de 2003, es un acuerdo subsidiario de la Convención, destinado a proteger la diversidad biológica de los riesgos potenciales de los organismos vivos modificados por la moderna biotecnología.

'Landmark' decision reached on trade in GM products

The new rules will affect how GM products are labelled

Mike Shanahan24 March 2006
Source: SciDev.Net

In what the European Union's environment commissioner Stavros Dimas has called a "landmark" decision, 132 countries have agreed rules on the international trade in products containing genetically modified (GM) organisms.
The rulings, made at last week's meeting of parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, centre on how such products are labelled.
It says any shipments containing GM organisms must state this, and identify which organisms are present, what their intended use is, and how they have been modified.
If it is not possible to identify the GM organisms, shipments must bear a label saying that they "may contain" modified organisms.
Countries that are party to the protocol will have four years to implement the rule.
"This decision sets out documentation requirements that are clear, meaningful and practical for both exporters and importers of agricultural products," said Dimas in a press release.
"It provides for legal certainty for the international trade in agricultural commodities. As such, it is a landmark decision that bolsters the role of the Cartagena Protocol."
The protocol is part of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. It is intended to protect biodiversity and human health from the potentially harmful effects of GM products by regulating their international trade.
Parties to the protocol also agreed last week to help developing countries by strengthening their ability to implement the protocol.
During negotiations, Mexico initially resisted mandatory labelling and was later backed by Paraguay. Both countries import and export GM foods.
Mexico eventually relented, but did add a clause stating that the labelling rules would not apply to transactions in which one country is not party to the protocol.
Two of the world's biggest exporters of GM products, the United States and Argentina, are not parties to the Cartagena Protocol.
The next meeting of the parties, in four years' time, will assess how well the labelling rule has been implemented.

Scientists seek biotech answer to hunger

Mon Mar 27, 2006 9:05 AM ET
By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - As he pores over plant tissue and petri dishes in a biotech seed lab in Johnston, Iowa, Luke Mehlo is half a world away from his home in South Africa.
But though the corn fields of Iowa bear little resemblance to the arid plains of Africa, the research center where Mehlo toils has become home to a unique joint venture that is merging African agricultural interests with U.S. money and technology.
The goal is to turn sorghum -- a common U.S. row crop used in animal feed, cereals and industrial products -- into a plant that can not only weather devastating drought but also yield a rich blend of vitamins and minerals. Researchers believe such a combination could help combat the hunger and malnutrition ravaging parts of Africa.
"A lot of people have died on the African continent, quite unnecessarily," said Mehlo, a molecular biotechnologist who came to Iowa from South Africa in October. "We seek to have a crop that will enable us to survive during disasters and food shortages."

Mehlo is one of a team of African scientists who will be working in Iowa over the next three years, tinkering with the genes of sorghum seeds.
An estimated 300 million people in arid regions of Africa rely on sorghum as a food source along with other crops. But while conventional sorghum is already known to do well in drought conditions, it lacks certain key nutrients.
By taking genes from other crops as well as manipulating genes within the sorghum plant itself, scientists believe they can remake sorghum into a more easily digestible crop richer in vitamins A and E, iron, zinc and amino acids and protein.
Pioneer Hybrid International, a subsidiary of Dupont, is a key U.S. partner and the sole commercial player in the endeavor. Pioneer has donated $4.8 million in gene technology, and is lending manpower and facilities for visiting African scientists at its Johnston headquarters.
"Africa is a place where biotechnology is necessary," said Dean Oestreich, President of Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. "It would be a big step to take and make a food crop more nutritious for people in Africa."
The patented technology donated by Pioneer has already shown feasibility in corn seeds, making successful genetic changes in sorghum likely as well, according to Paul Anderson, a Pioneer grain manager and a member of the oversight committee for the "African Biofortified Sorghum" project. Continued ... © Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

25 March 2006

BRASIL: Visiones diferentes sobre resoluciones en biodiversidad

Por AGENCIA INFORMATIVA PULSAR - Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2006 at 10:50 PM

Los productos transgénicos negociados en el marcado internacional no precisarán ser identificados antes de 2012.
La identificación será hecha conforme la capacidad técnica de cada país.
Este fue el resultado final de la MOP-3, la conferencia de los países signatarios del Protocolo de Cartagena sobre Biodiversidad que terminó en la noche del pasado viernes. Los representantes de México y de Paraguay fueron los únicos que en el último día expresaron su posición contraria a la identificación de productos transgénicos con el término "contiene OVM", o sea Organismos Vivos Modificados. Según la Agencia Brasil, estos países ni querían aceptar el término "puede contener OVM". La decisión final sobre la identificación de productos transgénicos que circulan por el mercado internacional será tomada solamente en la MOP-6 en 2012.
"La decisión refleja que los espacios de decisión internacional son cada vez más dominados por el poder que las empresas transnacionales tienen sobre los países", dijo Maria Rita Reis de la ONG "Tierra de los Derechos". Marijane Lisboa de la Asociación de la Agricultura Orgánica y docente de la PUC de San Pablo, opinó que el resultado fue decepcionante. "Se esperaba que ahora fuese obligatorio que todo comercio con transgénicos fuera identificado. Sin embargo, lo que se hizo fue posponer esto para 2012. O sea, durante este periodo vamos a tener mucha contaminación por transgénicos en muchos países". El Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores que representó Brasil en la conferencia, publicó una nota con una evaluación positiva del resultado. "Se trata de una importante conquista. Las nuevas reglas refuerzan la implantación de la legislación en vigor en el país y también favorecen la coexistencia de sistemas agrícolas productores de OVM, No OVMs y orgánicos", dijo el ministerio en su nota.(pulsar)

Brazil's biofuel plan is unsustainable

Deforestation is the cause of 80 per cent of Brazil's CO2 emissions

22 March 2006Source: The Guardian
The Brazilian government is promoting the use of biodiesel produced from soya beans to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
But, says Giulio Volpi in this article, clearing large areas of Amazonian rainforest to grow soybeans is too high an environmental price for this policy to be sustainable.
He says the deforestation caused by soybean farming in Brazil means the biodiesel has "virtually no advantage" over fossil fuels, in terms of the greenhouse gas emissions generated by each form of fuel.
Deforestation is responsible for 80 per cent of Brazil's carbon dioxide emissions.
Volpi's article responds to another, by Brazil's president Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva, promoting the country's efforts to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
Volpi argues policymakers should only promote biofuels whose overall environmental effect is positive.
To achieve this, he calls for a certification scheme to assess each biofuel according to environmental and social criteria.

Who Has Access to Biodiversity?

Mario Osava*/IPS

RIO DE JANEIRO, Mar 23 (Tierramérica) - Biologically mega-diverse countries, including Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, are calling for a binding global policy to regulate who has access to biodiversity. The proposal is up for discussion at an international environmental meeting this week in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba, but the goal remains far out of reach.
"The negotiation has been difficult and this process could take a couple more years," Hesiquio Benítez told Tierramérica. He is a member of the Mexican delegation to the 8th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8), which will include a draft policy among its agenda priorities. Limited progress is expected during the conference, but not an agreement, given that the issue tends to exacerbate the North-South disputes. In February, during the last preparatory meeting for the COP8 in Granada, Spain, the parties were only able to produce a document full of parentheses -- proof of the lack of consensus.
The policy regime would establish rules for the use of genetic resources derived from traditional knowledge and for the fair distribution of the benefits, as established under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Most of the developing countries that are rich in biodiversity are advocating for an obligatory regime -- an idea that many industrialised nations reject.
Negotiations are slow because they involve "economic interests," acknowledged Eduardo Vélez, director of genetic heritage at the Environment Ministry of Brazil, the host country and chair of COP8. Though he did say he is optimistic that "in Curitiba there will be important steps forward." According to Vélez, the United States, Japan and the European Union have not said they oppose such a regime outright, but they have adopted "delay tactics", calling for more studies on its possible effects on the chain of production.
These countries also have suggested a voluntary approach, "which is unacceptable because it is nothing. What we want is a binding agreement with sanctions," said the Brazilian official. Millions of dollars in trade are at stake in the debate, and business in this sector is expanding rapidly in pace with the development of biological sciences and technologies.
In recent years, bacteria inserted into plants in order to fix nitrogen from the air have helped Brazilian farmers save tens of billions of dollars in fertilisers and biologically control several kinds of crop pests. But despite biodiversity's fundamental role in maintaining life on Earth, exploitation of this natural wealth lacks regulations.
The CBD opened the way, but there is a long way to go to put rules into concrete practice. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, approved in 2000 and in force since 2003, is among the first positive results. Fewer than 20 countries have passed national laws on access to biodiversity, says Vélez. The Brazilian government is preparing to send a related bill to its National Congress. Much of the access by foreigners to a country's biodiversity still occurs illegally. Patents and products are coming from genetic materials used without the permission of the country of origin, said Vélez.
Without an international policy, the CBD is dead letter, he stressed. "We want to prevent biopiracy," added Mexican delegate Benítez, head of international affairs for his government's National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, CONABIO. Genetic resources, said Benítez, often come out of the traditional knowledge that is not recognised when the resulting products are patented in the industrialised countries. "Mexico wants to regulate legal access, and, if necessary, require the consent of the indigenous communities involved," which implies royalties and other benefits for the country of origin of the biological resources, he said.
At the COP8, Mexico will propose "a clear mandate so that an inter-governmental negotiation group can push the international regime as quickly as possible," he said. The Mexican government, under President Vicente Fox, also proposes a "certification of legal origin" as a requirement for patents that are based on biodiverse genetic resources. The fact that the United States would grant a patent for ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic plant considered sacred by indigenous communities in the Amazon, proves that "today biopiracy is a reality," said Juan Mayr, former environment minister of Colombia. The industrialised nations want easy access through "a lax system that doesn't protect our natural heritage, and much less our traditional knowledge," said Mayr.
Brazil, Colombia and Mexico stand to benefit from a binding policy regime, as they head the list of 17 mega-diverse countries in the world, which concentrate 70 percent of the known plant and animal species. Also on the list are Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, United States, China, India and several African and Asian nations. Brazil, with 200,000 registered species -- 10 percent of what is estimated to exist in this South American country -- holds 15 to 20 percent of the Earth's total. Colombia and Mexico, with around 10 percent each, are also among the four most biodiverse countries, along with Indonesia.
In Colombia, plants -- the greatest source of the country's biological wealth -- include 45,000 to 55,000 species, with one-third being endemic. The stars of the Colombian world of flora are the orchids, with some 3,500 species, or 15 percent of the global total. Brazil is the world leader in endemic species and champion in biodiversity. Its 3,000 species of freshwater fish are triple the total of any other country. Its main farm products -- coffee, sugar, soybeans, rice and oranges -- originated in other places, but many other economically important plants are native, including peanuts, pineapple, manioc, cashews and chestnuts. Numerous products and byproducts derived from Brazil's massive biodiversity have been patented in other countries. Five Amazonian plants have each generated around 20 of these patents, which are of questionable legitimacy, according to Vélez.
Because of these shared problems and interests, Latin American countries tend to unite in favour of an international biodiversity regime. Even Argentina -- like Chile, hesitant on this matter -- surprised many when it decided to support the proposal at the last preparatory meeting for the COP8. Argentina seeks to build common strategies within the Latin American and Caribbean group, Homero Bibiloni, deputy secretary of natural resources of the Secretariat of Environment and Sustainable Development, told Tierramérica. "Even though we aren't mega-diverse like Brazil or Mexico, we want to be in harmony with the region's position and reach a consensus proposal. We don't want our natural resources to be patented," he said.
(* Mario Osava is an IPS correspondent. With reporting by Marcela Valente in Argentina, Yadira Ferrer in Colombia and Diego Cevallos in Mexico. Originally published Mar. 18 by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme.)

23 March 2006

La mitad de la Amazonia podría desaparecer antes de 2050 por el deterioro de su hábitat natural


Actualizado jueves 23/03/2006 16:33 (CET)

LONDRES.- Hasta el 40% de la selva amazónica podría desaparecer antes de 2050, a menos que se apliquen medidas para la conservación de ese ecosistema. La Amazonia ha sufrido la destrucción de importantes hábitats naturales.
Esa degradación se debe a la deforestación acaecida como consecuencia de las actividades humanas para crear espacios destinados al pasto del ganado y el cultivo de soja.
Según Soares-Filho, la cuenca del río Amazonas "ha entrado en una nueva era debido a que los crecientes beneficios que generan la ganadería, y la producción de soja aumentan la deforestación y contribuyen a la expansión de la red de carreteras hasta el centro de esa región".
Si no cambia el actual uso humano de la selva y se refuerza su protección, el experto de la Universidad Minas Gerais calcula que el tamaño de la Amazonia se reducirá de 5,3 millones a 3,2 millones de kilómetros cuadrados antes del año 2050.
En opinión del científico, los ganaderos y agricultores de soja "podrían cumplir más la ley medioambiental de Brasil, que contempla la protección de la vegetación del río (Amazonas) y las reservas forestales" si la utilización adecuada de esa tierra fuera un requisito para "acceder a los lucrativos mercados internacionales".
Asimismo, el informe advierte de que la deforestación amazónica podría afectar al calentamiento global de la Tierra, dado que la tala de los árboles implicaría la emisión de miles de millones de toneladas de dióxido de carbono que contaminarían la atmósfera.
El pulmón de América del Sur
La cuenca del Amazonas regula el clima de casi toda América del Sur y sus árboles son los grandes procesadores de dióxido de carbono y suministradores de oxígeno.
Como "muchos de los beneficios de la conservación de la Amazonia repercutirían en la Humanidad", Britaldo Silveira Soares-Filho insta a los países ricos a financiar programa de protección medioambiental en la región.
Considerada la cuenca fluvial más grande del mundo, la región amazónica es un gigantesco ecosistema de selvas tropicales que se extiende sobre un área de siete millones de kilómetros cuadrados.
Los expertos consideran a esa zona como la reserva biológica más rica del mundo, con varios millones de especies de insectos, plantas, pájaros y otras formas de vida, muchas de las cuales todavía no han sido catalogadas por la Ciencia.

Peasants Say No to ‘Selling' Traditional Knowledge

By Mario Osava, Inter Press Services
2006-03-23 - CURITIBA, Brazil - Meanwhile, Greenpeace International added another urgent action for saving life on earth: protecting international waters. These announcements were made by the two global movements on Tuesday, at the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8), taking place in this southern, "ecologically-minded" Brazilian city from Mar. 20 - 31.
Land, water and other natural resources, including genetic diversity, as well as the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities, "are priceless," and to pay for them with part of a company's profits from patents "is privatisation," which Via Campesina opposes, bee-keeper Karen Pederson told IPS.
Pederson is women's president of the National Farmers Union in Canada, one of the Via Campesina member organisations. Via Campesina, a worldwide network of rural movements, is developing a "structural project" for agriculture in which seeds, food, forests and other natural resources cannot be treated as "merchandise, objects to be bought and sold," added Roberto Baggio, a leader of Brazil's Landless Rural Workers' Movement (MST).
Sharing the profits arising from appropriating something that is "a product of collective accumulation, at the service of all people," so that "knowledge becomes merchandise that can be traded," is the beginning of exploitation and privatisation, the activist argued.
This is in conflict with the "long-term vision" of the peasant movement, which is aimed at "preserving goods in common ownership," he added.
An example of the harm that this can bring about happened in Canada in the past, when industry bargained with indigenous peoples, offering them benefits in return for land and knowledge, and "they lost everything," Pederson said.
Baggio and Pederson were speaking at a press conference to explain Via Campesina's position on biodiversity and COP8. Their fellow activists Alberto Gómez, of the National Union of Autonomous Regional Farmers' Organisations (UNORCA) in Mexico, and Ballo Mamadu, a herdsman from Togo, defended food sovereignty and condemned the "mercantilisation" or "commodification" of products like seeds.
In Africa "we cannot afford to buy seeds every year," stressed Mamadu, a representative of a network of peasant organisations in West Africa, criticising Terminator seeds developed by multinational agribusiness firms and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which produce infertile plants, whose seeds cannot be used from one growing season to the next. Despite the world moratorium imposed on this "restricted use" technology, research is still being carried out in Canada, the United States and Europe in laboratories and in one case, even a greenhouse, said Pederson.
At COP8, "the central, strategic battle will be waged around seeds," pitting peasant farmers who have produced and improved seeds for 10,000 years, thus expanding their genetic diversity, against the transnational corporations that want to control the entire agricultural chain from production to marketing, said Baggio. But another major concern highlighted today by Greenpeace International is the destruction of the world's marine life. According to the environmental watchdog, an immediate U.N. moratorium on high seas bottom trawling is essential to stop the destruction of deep-sea life until a global network of marine reserves has been established.
The group proposes that these reserves cover 40 percent of the world's oceans and that the network be in place by 2012. Greenpeace stated that the Convention on Biological Diversity should call on the U.N. General Assembly to decree the moratorium. The oceans, which cover 70 percent of the earth's surface, are facing a crisis similar to the world's primary forests, where deforestation claims an estimated 13 million hectares annually.
Studies have covered only 0.0001 percent of the world's sea bed, but they make it possible to estimate that deep sea habitats are home to between 500,000 and ten million different species, said Greenpeace. Populations of large migratory fish like swordfish, tuna, marlin and shark have been reduced to one-tenth of what they were 50 years ago, while some species have been reduced to less than one-hundredth, said the organisation. In the past, human beings did not fish on the high seas, because of the distance and the costs involved. But that changed with the advent of industrial fishing and the demand for large fish. Overfishing is becoming a more and more serious problem in the deep seas because these areas are beyond national territorial waters and thus outside of the control of individual countries, explained Callum Roberts, an oceans expert at York University in Britain.
In order to meet the goal set in 2002 by the parties to the Convention to "significantly" reduce biodiversity loss by 2010, Greenpeace put forward additional proposals: expanding protected areas in accordance with a fixed timeline; creating an international financing mechanism; establishing global goals for reducing the deforestation of primary forests; speeding up the adoption of an international regime for access to genetic resources and the sharing of their benefits; eradicating biopiracy; and demanding that governments assume the public nature of biodiversity by regulating commercial practices that threaten it.

22 March 2006

Global biological diversity in decline

March 20, 2006
Global biological diversity is increasingly threatened according to a report released by at the outset of the largest biodiversity conference in more than a decade. More than 3000 delegates and 100 government ministers have gathered in Curitiba, Brazil at the eighth Convention on Biological Diversity to discuss the outlook for Earth's species.

The report, Global Biodiversity Outlook 2, says that we are currently in the midst of the worst extinction event since the disappearance of the dinosaurs and that this species loss is entirely the result of human activities. "In effect, we are currently responsible for the sixth major extinction event in the history of the Earth, and the greatest since the dinosaurs disappeared, 65 million years ago," the report states. Ongoing destruction of wilderness areas is cited as the leading cause of declining global biodiversity, but climate change could have an increasingly important impact, especially in ecosystems of the Arctic and Antarctic where glaciers and sea ice are fast-disappearing.

The UN describes biodiversity as "the combination of life forms and their interactions with one another, and with the physical environment that has made Earth habitable for humans." The report says that biodiversity loss is disrupting ecosystem functions, making ecosystems more vulnerable to shocks and disturbances, and less able to supply humans with ecological services like soil protection, carbon sequestration, flood control and water filtering.
The report notes that "consequences of biodiversity loss and ecosystem disruption are often harshest for the rural poor, who depend most immediately upon local ecosystem services for their livelihoods and who are often the least able to access or afford substitutes when these become degraded." The report estimates that global demand for resources now exceeds the biological capacity of the Earth by some 20 percent, while wild species abundance fell by about 40% between 1970 and 2000.

Other notes from the report
Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost annually. In the Caribbean, average hard coral cover declined from 50% to 10% in the last three decades. 35% of mangroves have been lost since 1980. Protected areas cover some 13% of the world’s land area, but these are unevenly distributed and some are not effectively managed. The average abundance of species is declining – 40% loss between 1970 and 2000. Species present in rivers, lakes and marshlands have declined by 50%.
Declines are evident in amphibians, African mammals, birds in agricultural lands, corals and commonly harvested fish species.

BIODIVERSITY:Curitiba, an Indigenous Conference

Mario Osava
CURITIBA, Brazil, Mar 20 (IPS) - Indigenous people from around the world "baptised" the eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8), which opened Monday in this southern Brazilian city, to help inspire the participants to reach good decisions. The aim of the ritual was to "cleanse the hearts and minds" of the participants, explained one of the roughly 50 indigenous activists representing several Brazilian and foreign ethnic groups. Some of the activists were painted red, "the colour of happiness," not war, in this case, Marcos Terena, coordinator of the indigenous peoples' participation in the conference, told IPS. The indigenous activists came to Curitiba because one of the main points on the COP8 agenda is the right of indigenous peoples and local communities to "fair distribution" of the benefits derived from the use of biodiversity and traditional knowledge. These rights are recognised by the Biodiversity Convention, underlined Brazilian Environment Minister Marina Silva, who is presiding over COP8. The executive secretary of the Convention, Algerian Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf, mentioned several examples of "miracle" foods and medicines derived from biodiversity and traditional knowledge. Spirulina, a kind of algae consumed by the Kanembous, an ethnic group on the banks of Lake Chad, makes that area one of the only malnutrition-free zones in Africa, he pointed out. The algae, which has been described as "hope for a hungry world" and has been the focus of numerous medical and scientific studies, is 70 percent protein, double the protein level of soybeans, and has awakened the interest of the European Space Agency, which plans to use it on long-term missions starting in 2008. The poor use spirulina not only as food, but also to treat people living with HIV, the AIDS virus, at a cost infinitely lower than that of conventional antiretroviral drugs, said Djoghlaf. Eighty percent of the world population uses traditional or alternative medicines derived from plants. The U.S. National Cancer Institute has identified more than 3,000 plants that are active against cancer, 70 percent of which are found only in tropical rainforests, he noted. Djoghlaf mentioned jaborandi, a shrub in northern Brazil that according to indigenous people is an effective remedy against asthma, pleurisy, arthritis, diabetes and baldness. The plant is also a good illustration of benefits of biodiversity that have not been distributed among the local community. Based on the shrub, the German drug company Merck produced a remedy named Salegen, which is used as a treatment for people who have problems salivating, a use that indigenous people have given it for centuries, according to a network of organisations that fight biopiracy. Twenty other patents registered around the world involve jaborandi, and there is no indication that the local indigenous people have received any benefit from the medicines based on the plant. Furthermore, jaborandi is endangered now due to use of the plant itself, rather than the more costly synthetic version. The COP8 is not expected to approve an international regime of access to biodiversity and distribution of the benefits (among the holders of traditional knowledge as well), but participants hope to make "advances" in that direction, Silva and Djoghlaf said at a news briefing. This knowledge is "not comparable to science," because "it is collective and difficult to attribute to one single community," Silva explained. Thus, remuneration must be done through common funds destined for all of the communities that collectively hold the knowledge. COP8 is important, stressed Silva, because it will address "all of the issues" related to the three basic goals of the Convention: the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and access to and the sharing of the benefits arising from the commercial and other utilisation of genetic resources in a fair and equitable manner. There will be particular emphasis on working towards the target established by the international community to achieve a "significant" reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss by the year 2010. The pursuit of these goals demands a "pact for the implementation of the Convention" with a "solid partnership" among the different sectors of society and "ethical reflection" in order for the commitments assumed by the parties to be translated into concrete action, said Silva. In addition, the industrialised countries must live up to their obligation to provide financial resources and facilitate technology transfer to fulfil these goals, she added. "Nature speaks and humankind doesn't listen," said Djoghlaf, quoting French writer Victor Hugo, to illustrate the lack of awareness regarding the "human catastrophe" on the horizon, presaged by numerous climatic disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes, drought and snowstorms that have killed thousands and threaten millions more. "We must listen to nature and act," and Brazil is the best place to do it, since it is home to the world's greatest wealth of biodiversity, it is the birthplace of the Convention - which was adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro û and it has undertaken many successful environmental initiatives, he said. The Convention has already travelled a long road over the last 14 years, commented Djoghlaf, marked by 283 meetings, 192 decisions that have been compiled into a 1,039-page book, a strategic plan for the world's main ecosystems, and numerous working programmes that have been carried out or designed. Nevertheless, there is still a great deal left to be done, concurred the participants in COP8. Without passion there are no dreams, and without dreams there is no action, remarked Bakari Kante, a representative of the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), highlighting the promising prospects of a conference in which over 4,000 participants will be working to promote measures to curb biodiversity loss in the next four years. Malaysian Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Letchumanan Ramatha transferred the presidency of the Convention to Brazil through Minister Silva. The hosts of COP8 û the governor of the state of Paraná, Roberto Requiao and the mayor of Curitiba, Carlos Alberto Richa - greeted the participants and highlighted the initiatives that justify the selection of this city as the venue of the conference. Curitiba is a prime example of achievements in environmental action, urban planning, quality of life and hospitality. Around 1,000 people were expected to volunteer to attend to the conference participants, while in fact over 5,000 volunteers who speak over 50 languages among them are taking part in the effort, commented Mayor Richa. Governor Requiao underlined his government's struggle against transgenic crops. Paraná is the first Brazilian state with a law for the labelling of genetically modified products. The state's forests have been reduced to barely three percent of the area they originally covered because of the unchecked expansion of agriculture over the course of just a few decades, he lamented. COP8 runs through Mar. 31, and will include a Mar. 26-29 ministerial segment, in which around 100 environment ministers from around the world are expected to take part. (END/2006)

16 March 2006

La superficie forestal riojana aumenta, y muy rápidamente

El dirigente regional sostiene que hay tópicos que no se sostienen sobre la superficie de bosques
El día 21 se celebra el 'Día Mundial Forestal'. Miguel Urbiola se remite a la estadística nacional para desglosar la evolución de los bosques riojanos.

- ¿Cómo están los bosques riojanos?
- Hay datos objetivos a través de los inventarios. Hace menos de 30 años sólo una de cada cinco hectáreas estaba ocupada por masa arbolada. Ahora, una de cada tres. Es decir, aumenta y rápidamente.
- Hay muchos que han sostenido lo contrario...
- Pues ahí están los datos. Han aumentado en superficie y en biodiversidad, en especies y en calidad.
- ¿Y la cuestión sanitaria?
- Ahí quiero llegar. La estadística nos ha dado una situación sanitaria óptima en los montes. Hay algunas endémicas como la procesionaria. Es muy visible, se produce en determinadas zonas y especies. Pero las superficies son muy pequeñas y en zonas bajas y muy controladas. Hacemos un control riguroso y con tratamientos aéreos y bacterianos, biológicos, que se encargan del control de la plaga. Pero está más que controlada desde hace 20 años. Y lo mismo hemos hecho con los tratamientos de los insectos perforadores de madera en zonas donde no se han retirado los cortes. Hay buenos datos y luz verde.
- Hay buena salud, más árboles, más biodiversidad... pero siguen los comentarios...
- Hay muchos tópicos que no se sostienen, como el de la limpieza de los montes; limpiamos lo más importante y necesario. Antes se subvencionaba la roturación de terrenos; hoy han cambiado los valores. Pero no se trata de conservar por conservar ni de seguir creciendo como lo estamos haciendo. Hay que mantener un equilibrio siempre dentro de unos objetivos. La vegetación es dinámica, pero hay que tener mucho cuidado con el suelo como un capital fundamental.

14 March 2006

ONGs y movimientos discuten biodiversidad

13.03.06 - BRASIL

Adital - El Foro Brasileño de Organizaciones No Gubernamentales y Movimientos Sociales para el Medio Ambiente y el Desarrollo (Fboms) promueve de hoy y hasta el día 28 de marzo, en Curitiba, el Foro Global de la Sociedad Civil. La iniciativa tiene lugar en paralelo con la 8ª Reunión de las Partes de la Convención sobre Diversidad Biológica (COP-8) y 3ª Reunión de las Partes del Protocolo de Cartagena sobre Bioseguridad (MOP-3).
El espacio pretende ser un lugar para que las organizaciones de la sociedad civil brasileñas y de otros países puedan intercambiar experiencias, debatir y afirmar posiciones comunes en relación con los temas de actualidad de la biodiversidad. La programación incluirá debates, seminarios y reuniones y estará abierta al público y puede ser consultada en el website de Internet www.terradedireitos.org.br.

Uno de los temas centrales a ser discutido en el Foro se refiere a la decisión sobre la identificación del transporte transfronterizo de organismos vivos modificados (OVMs, los transgénicos). Para la organización Tierra de Derechos, esta definición es muy importante, porque es la identificación clara y precisa la que posibilitará la adopción de medidas de bioseguridad por parte de los países importadores e inclusive, permitir que los países puedan rechazar la importación de OGM (Organismos Genéticamente Modificados).

Parte de los países signatarios del Protocolo sostienen que la identificación del transporte de OVM debe incluir sólo la expresión "puede contener", no representando identificación precisa. Además, varios otros aspectos del Protocolo y de las legislaciones nacionales sobre bioseguridad (como la responsabilidad por daños) quedarán prácticamente sin aplicabilidad. "Esto significa la completa desregulación del comercio internacional de OGM, lo que dificultará y mucho las medidas contra la contaminación genética", afirma la entidad.

La otra opción de identificación, defendida por la mayoría de los países es la leyenda "Contiene OVM", que implica especificar con exactitud el tipo de OVM, sus características y medidas de bioseguridad necesarias para evitar la contaminación", explica María Rita, asesora jurídica de la ONG Tierra de Derechos. En rigor, el mecanismo que debería posibilitar, en Brasil, el rotulado, sería suficiente para posibilitar la identificación en la exportación. "Es inadmisible que cualquier otro criterio, y no los que expresen respeto por la bioseguridad, sean adoptados para definir las reglas de identificación en el ámbito del Protocolo de Cartagena".

MOP (Meeting of Parties) es la sigla utilizada, en el ámbito de la Convención sobre Diversidad Biológica (CDB), para designar la reunión de los países miembros del Protocolo de Cartagena sobre Bioseguridad. La tercera reunión de las partes tiene lugar en Curitiba, a partir de este lunes 13, y hasta el día 17 de marzo. En esas reuniones, los representantes de los países miembros analizan documentos y toman decisiones sobre las medidas necesarias para la implementación y cumplimiento del Protocolo.

Las discusiones estarán centradas en temas relacionados como contaminación, bioseguridad y comercio; geopolítica de los transgénicos; áreas libres de transgénicos; privatización de los recursos genéticos y la agricultura campesina y bioseguridad; así como la contaminación genética y soberanía alimentaria.

Desde el día 20 de marzo en adelante, cuando comience la COP-8, otros asuntos entran en la agenda, por ejemplo el de la privatización de áreas naturales protegidas, el mundo real del agua, los contaminantes y la biodiversidad, biodiversidad y amenazas a las zonas costeras y marinas - manguezales y carcinicultura, nuevas formas de biopiratería.
Traducción: Daniel Barrantes - barrantes.daniel@gmail.com

13 March 2006

Argentina, Uruguay Agree to Halt Pulp Mill Project

Story by Juana Ines Casas REUTERS NEWS SERVICE

CHILE: March 13, 2006
SANTIAGO - The presidents of Argentina and Uruguay agreed on Saturday to temporarily halt construction of two controversial pulp mills that have caused a diplomatic crisis between the neighboring nations over environmental safety.
The $1.7 billion project to build two mills along the Uruguay River, which borders both countries, is Uruguay's biggest industrial investment.
Under the agreement, reached in Santiago before Chile's presidential inauguration, Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez agreed to stop construction of the mills for up to 90 days in response to Argentina's environmental concerns.
At the same time, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner agreed to suspend months-long roadblocks across the river from one proposed mill site that Uruguay has said are badly hurting the economy.
"The (project) suspension is done so that at the same time, they clear the blockades and we can begin negotiations between the two governments to reach an understanding, which we will surely achieve," Vazquez told reporters.
Further progress will depend on cooperation from Argentine protesters and the companies, Finland's Metsa-Botnia and Spain's Ence.
The presidents plan to meet twice during the 90-day period, once in Colonia, Uruguay, and once in Mar del Plata, Argentina, an official source with the Kirchner delegation said on condition of anonymity.
The leaders have not decided yet whether to carry out an independent environmental impact study, as Argentina has repeatedly demanded.
"Uruguay is certain that the mills' functioning will cause a truly minor or very small impact on the environment," Vazquez said, adding that the companies will be using new, improved technologies.
The agreement came a little over a week after Uruguay rejected a plea by Kirchner to suspend construction of the eucalyptus pulp mills, which has led to demonstrations by Argentines and environmentalists worried about contamination and the impact on the region's tourism and fishing industries.
"This gesture that we are asking for jointly is fundamental to finding a solution that the people of Uruguay and Argentina want to strengthen their ties," Kirchner told reporters.
The two leaders met before the historic inauguration of Michelle Bachelet as Chile's first woman president.
The companies insist any pollutants from the plants would be below internationally tolerated levels. Metsa-Botnia officials in Uruguay did not answer their telephones on Saturday when sought for comment, and Ence representatives were not immediately available for comment either.
The mills are expected to produce 1.5 million metric tonnes of wood pulp for export after production scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2007.
A protest leader in Argentina, Juan Veronesi, told Reuters the road blockades will not be cleared until construction on the mills has stopped.
"That is an indispensable condition. I have no assurances that Botnia will respond to Tabare's request, or that Tabare will actually request this," said Veronesi, a leader of the Citizens' Environmental Assembly of Gualeguaychu, the Argentine city at the center of the protests.
"We are tired of lies and tired of promises. We want to see concrete actions," he said.
(Additional reporting by Hilary Burke in Buenos Aires, Antonio de la Jara in Valparaiso and Patricia Avila in Montevideo)

11 March 2006


Por reenvío agencia walsh - Monday, Mar. 06, 2006 at 6:19 PM

(AW) El presidente petista dio luz verde a una polémica ley que permitirá la explotación de la madera y la biodiversidad amazónica en manos de capitales privados, con plazos de hasta 40 años de concesión. Sin embargo el gobierno dice que así protege la zona de la apropiación ilegal.

(Radio Nacional de Panamá – 06/03/06) Unos la llaman el "gran legado" del presidente Lula da Silva para el Amazonas. Otros la consideran una entrega de la selva al capital privado, sobre todo extranjero. Así, la nueva ley que regula la explotación económica de una de las mayores matas tropicales del mundo, nace en medio de controversias. Sancionada por el presidente brasileño, había más incertidumbres que certezas sobre los efectos que la legislación tendrá sobre los 5.000.000 de kilómetros cuadrados cubiertos por esa portentosa floresta (el 60% en manos estatales), uno de los pocos pulmones del mundo que siguen en pie.
La ley, aprobada hace un mes por el Congreso brasileño, representa una privatización del llamado Amazonas Legal: abre la concesión de las florestas públicas a la iniciativa privada, aun cuando conserva la titularidad de la tierra en manos del Estado. Condenada por algunas organizaciones ambientalistas, la norma es defendida por otras ONG como Greenpeace.
El objetivo oficial para privatizar mediante licitación pública la explotación amazónica es que se evita, así, la apropiación ilegal de las tierras por aventureros que se las ingeniaban para fraguar títulos de propiedad sobre posesiones estatales. Uno de los casos más renombrados fue el de Cecilio do Rego Almeida, dueño de una empresa constructora que se apropió sin más de 5 millones de hectáreas en el sur del estado de Pará. La otra función de la ley es garantizar al Estado brasileño un canon por las áreas concesionadas, tal como ocurre con los servicios públicos privatizados, por ejemplo YPF de Argentina. Es plata que entraría al fisco a cambio de permitir que las empresas conviertan el Amazonas en un sitio de explotaciones económicas "sustentables": desde la extracción maderera hasta su uso para producción de medicamentos.
En teoría, esto debería "reordenar" las actividades en el medio amazónico. Así, la ley crea el Servicio Forestal Brasileño, que no existía hasta ahora, le otorga la facultad de identificar los bloques -especies de yacimientos- de selva que podrán ser explotados en los próximos diez años y, también, le da la tarea de organizar el proceso licitatorio. Los pedazos de selva a privatizar no son homogéneos. La ley establece tres tamaños: pequeños, medianos y grandes; esa distinción tiende, según el gobierno, a garantizar que accedan al tesoro amazónico empresas de distinto rango: desde pymes hasta grandes nacionales y multinacionales. A éstas se les pide apenas que tengan una filial con oficinas en Brasil. El plazo de las concesiones llega a ser de hasta 40 años. Y por toda prevención para un uso "sustentable" se establece una auditoría de la gestión forestal cada tres años.
Para los detractores de la nueva legislación, es tiempo de sobra para que las empresas puedan provocar desastres ecológicos sin culpa ni pena, y sobre todo, sin que se entere el Estado brasileño. Como se trata de una ley sancionada por un gobierno como el de Lula y una ministra popular como Marina Silva -nacida en una familia de obreros del caucho- ésta incluye un costado social. Prevé crear unidades de conservación de las florestas nacionales que serán dedicadas a una producción sustentable. Dicho de otro modo, se les da algún espacio a quiénes exploten frutos amazónicos para uso comunitario y comercial de pequeña escala. Es el caso de las comunidades negras y poblados indígenas. En esta iniciativa, un objetivo confeso es atraer el capital privado para explotar la madera y la biodiversidad del Amazonas; todo esto, en nombre de propender a una "floresta productiva". Con la salvedad oficial de que deberá ser "autosostenida" y proteger la biodiversidad, además de integrarse a la política científico-tecnológica nacional.
Los detractores de la ley son implacables. Sostienen que ésta no impedirá la extracción abusiva de la madera; esto es, seguirá viento en popa la tala indiscriminada de árboles. Muchos técnicos consideran que las concesiones forestales no serán suficientes para mejorar el control sobre la industria maderera. Subrayan, incluso, las experiencias en otros países amazónicos donde leyes similares demostraron su falta de eficacia. Afirmar que las concesiones en lugares remotos de difícil acceso no sirven para evitar que las madereras hagan trampa y continúen con extracciones ilegales de maderas preciosas.
<·>-<·> Agencia de Comunicaciones Rodolfo Walsh – Tel. 15 6172 4021 – agenciawalsh@yahoo.com.ar<·>-<·>

08 March 2006

“Bio-inseguridad” en el Mercosur

Argentina Centro de Medios Independientes (( i ))
El artículo original está en http://argentina.indymedia.org/news/2006/03/379453.php

Por Dolores Marengo APM - Friday, Mar. 03, 2006 at 10:35 AM

Debate sobre el uso de semillas “terminator”

Cancillería Argentina se reunió con organizaciones civiles para discutir cuál será su papel en las cumbres de bioseguridad y diversidad biológica a realizarse en Curitiba, Brasil, del 13 a 31 de marzo

“El Mercosur va a presentar un proyecto estratégico de trabajo de biodiversidad realizado por los ministros ambientales de los países que forman parte”, informó la embajadora María Esther Bondanza, Directora General de Asuntos Ambientales del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores argentino.

Aclaró que si bien la presentación del proyecto es muy importante para seguir trabajando en las políticas comunes que se tiene con la región, no compromete las posiciones de cada uno de los países miembros. “Sólo es un proyecto de trabajo, luego deberá ser analizado y estudiado por cada país”, prosiguió la embajadora.

El Grupo de Reflexión Rural (GRR), una de las organizaciones presentes en la reunión, hizo hincapié en tres grandes preocupaciones: la utilización de la tecnología “terminator” (semillas estériles que no sirven para la reproducción), con las que las empresas biotecnológicas, como Monsanto se asegurarían el cobro de regalías; la privatización de zonas de alta biodiversidad; y la moratoria a árboles transgénicos.

La Federación Agraria Argentina (FAA) y la Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN), también presentes en la reunión, compartieron las preocupaciones planteadas por el GRR.

La posición oficial tampoco difirió en los puntos marcados. Aunque los funcionarios reconocieron que el tema de los árboles transgénicos no estaba en la agenda de discusión, por lo que dejaron abierta la posibilidad de que las organizaciones hagan llegar documentos o proyectos de trabajo hasta el nueve de marzo, día en que se cerrará un proyecto de instrucciones para elevar al canciller argentino Jorge Taiana.

El uso de semillas “terminator” es la mayor preocupación, tanto del estado argentino como de las organizaciones no gubernamentales, que se entiende por la existencia de 17 millones de hectáreas sembradas con semillas transgénicas, sin una ley de regulación sobre el tema.

Por su parte el consejero Claudio Gutiérrez, de la cancillería argentina, informó que el uso de la tecnología “terminator” iba a ser analizado país por país, y además diferenciar esta tecnología de la que tiene que ver con el desarrollo social de la nación.

Con respecto a la relación directa que existe entre el uso indiscriminado de la biotecnología y problemas de salud en la sociedad, la postura fue enfrentada y se dejó abierto el debate para una próxima reunión.

“Esta comprobado científicamente que la aparición del Hantavirus y el Mal de Chagas en la ciudad esta directamente relacionada con la deforestación y la contaminación de las aguas. De esto hay documentos e investigaciones que lo demuestran” sentenció Jorge Rulli, del GRR.

Ante esto la embajadora María Esther Bondanza respondió que “también existen prestigiosos científicos internacionales que declaran que la biotecnología no tiene relación con estos problemas de salud”, apoyada por los representantes de la Secretaria de Medio Ambiente de Argentina, también presentes en la reunión.

La delegación que concurrirá a la Tercera Reunión de las Partes del Protocolo de Cartagena de Bioseguridad (MOP3) y la Octava Conferencia de las Partes de la Convención sobre Diversidad Biológica (COP8) estará encabezada por el Secretario y el Subsecretario de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, Atilio Savino y Homero Bibiloni, junto a 12 miembros de esa repartición.

Por su parte, la embajadora Bondanza informó que sólo el consejero Claudio Gutiérrez estará presente durante los 15 días que duren las cumbres, y ella se hará presente sólo los días claves. “La Cancillería Argentina no cuenta con fondos suficientes para enviar una delegación más grande a la cumbre” explicó.

Un informe denuncia que las multinacionales extraen recursos biológicos de África sin devolver los beneficios


Decenas de multinacionales biotecnológicas y farmacéuticas occidentales se están haciendo ilegalmente con recursos biológicos de África para desarrollar en sus laboratorios productos muy lucrativos cuyos beneficios no revierten en sus países de origen, violando con ello la Convención sobre Biodiversidad de la ONU, según denuncia un informe conjunto estadounidense y sudafricano publicado hoy por el diario londinense 'The Independent'
El informe revela que las multinacionales rastrean todo el continente africano en busca de muestras, tanto de plantas como de bacterias, que posteriormente procesan en sus propios laboratorios. Con esas muestras, las empresas desarrollan productos patentados particularmente lucrativos, ya sean plantas para los jardines de Europa, remedios naturales contra la impotencia o incluso productos que sirven para decolorar pantalones vaqueros de diseño.
La Convención Internacional sobre Biodiversidad, aprobada en 1992, establece que los Estados tienen plena soberanía sobre sus propios recursos naturales y aboga por el aprovechamiento justo y ecuánime de los beneficios procedentes del desarrollo de los recursos genéricos, según recordó al diario londinense un alto miembro del secretariado de la Convención (con sede en Canadá), Arthur Nogueira.
En algunos casos, citados por el informe, las propias compañías han aceptado que sus productos proceden de recursos naturales africanos, pero lo han justificado con el argumento de que los beneficios deben recaer en quienes los desarrollan biotecnológicamente y no en los países de origen de la materia prima. Por ello, según el informe, no hay indicios de que las empresas hayan compensado económicamente a los países de los que proceden.
"Es una nueva forma de pillaje colonial", declaró Beth Burrows, del instituto estadounidense Edmonds, una de las organizaciones autoras del informe. "El problema es que vivimos en un mundo en el que las empresas suelen apropiarse de lo que quieren y donde quieren, y nos transmiten la idea de que lo hacen por el bien de humanidad", añadió.
"Es una total falta de consideración y de respeto hacia los recursos de África. Nuestros descubrimientos son sólo el producto de un mes de investigación, imagine qué hubiéramos descubierto en dos años", afirmó Mariam Mayet, del Centro Africano de Biodiversidad, la organización sudafricana coautora del estudio.

Entre las compañías citadas en el informe figuran la firma británica SR Pharma, que se hizo con la patente de una bacteria recogida en Uganda durante los años setenta y que se utiliza para desarrollar un tratamiento contra enfermedades virales crónicas, incluido el sida. El director de SR Pharma, Melvyn Davies, confirmó a los autores del informe que la empresa en ningún momento ha ofrecido el producto o ni siquiera compensaciones financieras a Uganda.
"Si usted se encuentra una sustancia natural en la calle, ¿debemos suponer que pertenece al país en el que la encontró?", declaró. "La cuestión no es dónde aparece el producto, sino el trabajo que se ha invertido para desarrollarlo. ¿Debe llevarse Uganda los beneficios que ha generado si no ha invertido en su desarrollo?", añadió.
Otra compañía mencionada en el informe es Bayer, que consiguió un tipo de bacteria en el Lago Ruiru de Kenia con la que ha desarrollado un fármaco contra la bacteria, patentado como 'Precose' o 'Glucobay'. El producto ha generado 218 millones de euros, pero Kenia no ha recibido nada en compensación. Una portavoz de Bayer, Christina Sehnert, ha confirmado que el producto procede de una bacteria keniana, pero añadió que "no se está utilizando el original, lo que se ha patentado es el producto biotecnológico".
La californiana Genencor International también ha utilizado microbios procedentes desde 1992 de Kenia, concretamente del Valle del Rift, para desarrollar enzimas que se utilizan como decolorantes para pantalones vaqueros.
Otro caso citado en el informe es el de la compañía canadiense Option Biotech, que ha patentado semillas procedentes de Congo --'Aframomum stipulatum'-- para el desarrollo del medicamento contra la impotencia Bioviagra.
El estudio incluye también el caso de la planta 'Impatiens usambarensis', recogida en los montes Usambara de Tanzania y de cuya patente se ha apropiado la suiza Sygenta para la producción de una planta de jardín. En 2004, Sygenta obtuvo 85 millones de euros por su venta, pero el Gobierno de Tanzania no ha obtenido ningún beneficio de ello.