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Tuesday, February 04, 2003

The EU is proposing new rules that will force biotech companies to say where they found plants or genes they use to develop new crop varieties. These rules would also permit farmers in poor countries to keep + swap patented seeds.

The problem the EU is worried about is bio-piracy - the determination by some companies in developed countries to find and control natural resources or traditional knowledge simply for profit. The 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) tries to make sure that the benefits are shared between the exploiters and the communities from which they take their resources.

But many countries think the CBD may be fatally damaged by the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (Trips), agreed in 1995 by the WTO.

On a related note the governing council of UNEP is also meeting at its headquarters from 3 - 7 February, and will be discussing ways to tackle poverty + environmental destruction by using poor countries' genetic resources to benefit them.