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Archive for May, 2010

Columbian IP Agreement continues to Raise Human Rights Concerns

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

FlagDuring Columbia’s periodic review by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, specifically the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, several recommendations were made relating to intellectual property (IP) rights. 

The official UN report can be found here and CIEL’s publications relating to Trade Agreements and IP can be accessed here.

With respect to Access to Medicines, examining the US-Columbia Free Trade Agreement, the Committee noted that: 

The Committee is also concerned that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed between the State party and the United States contains provisions on intellectual property that may result in increase of prices of medicines and negatively impact on the enjoyment of the right to health, in particular of those with low income (arts. 1, 12).

…In this regard, the Committee recommends that the State party consider revising the intellectual property provisions of the Free Trade Agreement signed with the United States, in order to ensure protection against the increase of the price of medicines, in particular for those with low income.  (para. 10)

With respect to development projects, including those that would be under the ambit of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, the Committee noted:

The Committee recommends that the State party take concrete measures to review the processes concerning infrastructure, development and mining projects and fully implement decisions of the Constitutional Court in this regard. The Committee also recommends that the State party review the Presidential Directive 001 and the draft bill elaborated by the Working Party on Prior Consultation of the Ministry of the Interior. The Committee further recommends that the State party adopt legislation in consultation with and the participation of indigenous and afro-colombian people, that clearly establishes the right to free, prior and informed consent in conformity with ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, as well as the relevant decisions of the Constitutional Court.  (para. 9)

On Biofuels, the committee notes that:

The Committee is concerned that the policy encouraging agro-exporting goods, such as agro-fuels, may deprive peasants from cultivating their lands. The Committee is also concerned about the unequal distribution of lands owned by a minority of the population, as well as about the absence of a genuine agrarian reform, as recommended in the previous concluding observations of the Committee (art. 11).

The Committee recommends that the State party develop agricultural policies which prioritize the production of food; implement programs that protect national food production with incentives for small producers; and ensure the restitution of lands taken from indigenous and afro-colombian peoples, as well as peasant communities.   (para. 22)

Regarding Access to Knowledge and Education:

The Committee recommends that the State party take immediate measures to ensure access of all children without discrimination, to free and compulsory primary education.  (para. 29)

In addition to these recommendations by the Committee, on GMOs the Seeds Group presented its report on Genetically Modified Organisms and the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Columbia.  The report states: 

The policies and practices of the Colombian State concerning genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have violated, and threaten to continue violating, the rights of indigenous peoples in Colombia, including their rights to self-determination, prior consultation, participation, property, culture, food, heath, and a healthy environment.

In 2005, the Colombian State issued a decree that regulates the approval of GMOs. Though indigenous peoples will be affected by the release of genetically modified (GM) seeds, they were not consulted before the approval of this decree; nor does the decree provide for any consultation during the approval process for each seed. Under this decree, the processes by which certain GM seeds have been approved have violated the Colombian State’s obligation to apply the precautionary principle, and have not taken into account scientific studies that have demonstrated the threat that GM seeds pose to native seeds, human health, and the environment.

The next periodic report of Columbia is due to be submitted by July 2015.

U.S. Clears Test of Genetically Modified Trees in Southern US

May 19, 2010 Leave a comment

The test is meant to see if the trees, eucalyptuses with a foreign gene meant to help them withstand cold weather, can become a new source of wood for pulp and paper, and for biofuels, in the Southern timber belt. Eucalyptus trees generally cannot now be grown north of Florida because of occasional freezing spells.

via www.nytimes.com

Although the above NYT article (link above) acknowledges that Genetically Modified (GM) trees are even more controversial than GM crops, most significantly because there is a higher likelihood of "gene flow" from transgenic to wild-type trees, the article presents a blazing example of why independent and reliable assessment must precede transfer, in the context of technologies that are billed for protecting the environment, as well as adapting to, or mitigating the effects of climate change.

In this vein, over 90 diverse organizations, including CIEL among other public health, scientist, labor, public interest, environmental, faith-based, civil liberties, hospital, and transparency organizations wrote to urge US Congressional Representatives to include funding for the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in the legislative branch appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2011.

For 23 years, the OTA provided trustworthy, non-partisan information on scientific and technological issues from Alzheimer’s disease to acid rain. Despite its good work, OTA was the victim of budget cuts in 1995, a move that saved the government a little more than $20 million annually. Since then, the government has spent billions on new technologies that have not worked as promised.

Given the pressure to find rapid solutions to green-house gas levels that continue to rise, it is important that the right technologies are adopted and disseminated.

For more information on GM trees – see: http://www.wrm.org.uy/subjects/GMTrees/text.html

For more information on the letter to US Congressional Representatives to revive the OTA, please see www.ucsusa.org/ota


Categories: Uncategorized

Human Rights, Technology Transfer & Climate Change

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

On the margins of the WIPO Committee on Development and IP (CDIP), CIEL organized a series of presentations and commentary on the topic of Human Rights and Technology Transfer, in the context of climate change.  Information on what agreements were reached in the CDIP can be found on the CIEL IP Quarterly Update, Second Quarter of 2010.

The speakers included:

  • Mr. Robert Archer, Executive Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy (ICHRP)
  • Mr. Michael Waibel, Post-doctoral researcher at Cambridge University
  • Mr. Baskut Tuncak, Law Fellow, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  • Ms. Caroline Dommen, Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO)
  • Mr. Subhas Gujadhur, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Mauritius to Geneva

Mr. Archer began the event with a summary of the Human Rights dimension of climate change, based in part on their earlier publication “Climate Change and Human Rights: A Rough Guide.”

Mr. Waibel followed with an overview of Technology Transfer in the International Agreements on intellectual property and environmental protection.  His presentation can be viewed here.

Mr. Tuncak then spoke of how and to what benefit human rights obligations can inform discussions on technology transfer.

Finally. Ms. Dommen and Mr. Gujadhur provided their perspective on the preceding presentations.

For further information, please see IP Watch’s coverage here and/or contact Baskut Tuncak at btuncak [at] ciel [dot] org