Intellectual Property and Biodiversity News


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Intellectual Property & Biodiversity News
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade 
Policy
October 10, 1996
Volume 5, Number 8
_____________________________
Headlines
- ORGANIC STANDARDS NOT TO INCLUDE GENETICALLY 
ENGINEERED FOOD
- EUROPEAN CONSUMERS PROTEST GENE ALTERED SOY
- GENETIC ID TEST DEVELOPED
- rBGH LAWS CHANGE
- Bt RESEARCH PROJECTS FUNDED
- WILD SALMON THREATENED BY FISH FARM SPECIES
- FOREIGN TRADEMARK RULING
- GENE THERAPY TESTED FOR ORAL CANCER
- NAFTA FORUM TO REVIEW BIOTECHNOLOGY ISSUES
______________________________
ORGANIC STANDARDS NOT TO INCLUDE GENETICALLY ENGINEERED 
FOOD 

The National Organic Standards Board met last week and took a 
position on genetically engineered organisms. The Board passed, 
with a nearly unanimous vote, the following: "The National 
Organic  Standards Board recommends that genetically  
engineered organisms and their derivatives be prohibited 
in organic production and handling systems. Genetically 
engineered is defined as: Made with techniques that 
alter the molecular or cell biology of an organism by 
means that are not possible under natural conditions or 
processes. Genetic engineering includes recombinant DNA, 
cell fusion, micro- and macro-encapsulation, gene 
deletion and doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and 
changing the positions of genes. It shall not include 
breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in-
vitro fertilization and tissue culture."

"National Organic Standards Board Biotechnology Policy," 
September 24, 1996. 

EUROPEAN CONSUMERS PROTEST GENE ALTERED SOY

The EuroCommerce, an organization representing the 
retail and wholesale sector of 20 European countries, 
issued a warning that U.S. farmers risk having their 
1996 soybean harvest shunned by European consumers 
unless they separate genetically engineered soybeans 
from non-genetically engineered soybeans. This warning 
comes as U.S. farmers are preparing to start harvest of 
crops which include genetically engineered soybeans. 
EuroCommerce's Heinrich Kroeger said, "I think the 
farmers in the U.S. should be aware that almost 50% of 
their harvest is in danger, their market is in danger 
and people might have the tendency to look for other 
products which do not contain soy...our clients should 
have the choice between genetically modified and 
unmodified products."

"Europe Wants Labels on Gene-Altered Soy," JOURNAL OF 
COMMERCE, September 30, 1996.

GENETIC ID TEST DEVELOPED

Genetic ID, a laboratory in Iowa, has developed a test 
that identifies genetically engineered foods. Jeffrey 
Wells, general manager of Genetic ID, said "our 
laboratory protocol scans the DNA structure of the crop 
samples sent to us to precisely identify any altered 
gene sequences. This is an extremely sensitive and 
accurate test. Even the tiniest fragment of foreign DNA 
can be detected." The company is working with major 
European food producers who are considering requiring 
the test for all shipments of corn and soybeans from the 
U.S.

"New Genetic ID Test Detects Genetically-Engineered 
Foods," Press Release from Genetic ID, September 17, 
1996.

rBGH LAWS CHANGE

A New York federal appeals court issued instructions to 
U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha to issue a 
preliminary injunction against Vermont's 1994 mandatory 
labeling law relating to milk derived from cows treated 
with rBGH, also referred to as rBST. Murtha had earlier 
refused to block the implementation of the law, a 
decision that was appealed by attorneys for a consortium 
of dairy groups, such as International Dairy Foods 
Association and Grocery Manufacturers of America. A 
lawsuit was filed by the dairy consortium based on First 
Amendment rights and the commerce clause of the U.S. 
Constitution. The injunction will be in effect until the 
case can be heard by a U.S. district court judge.  A 
voluntary labeling law will now be sought, according to 
Vermont Agriculture Commissioner Leon Graves.

The voluntary labeling of milk from cows is also 
underway in California. Clover Stornetta, a large 
supplier of dairy products in the Bay Area, started 
carrying a "rBST-free" label in late May.  Dan 
Benedetti, president of Clover Stornetta, said the 
company based its decision on the public's strong 
resistance to rBGH and the public's desire to know where 
and how the milk is produced. Benedetti is convinced 
that they will not stand alone among big California 
dairy producers in their refusal to use rBGH milk.

Stacey Chase, "Dairy-product Labeling Rules in Doubt," 
BURLINGTON FREE PRESS, August 9, 1996; "No rBGH for 
California Dairy," FOOD AND WATER JOURNAL, Summer 1996. 

Bt RESEARCH PROJECTS FUNDED

An industry group founded in 1989, the Bt Management 
Working Group, has awarded research grants on Bacillus 
thuringiensis (Bt) to three universities. The University 
of Nebraska and the University of Minnesota will conduct 
research into the levels of Bt that affect resistant and 
non-resistant European corn borer.  The University of 
Hawaii will be studying  the only known field-evolved 
resistance to the Bt protein, which occurred in the 
diamond back moth. Important information such as 
inheritance and stability of resistance management will 
be examined.

The Bt Management Working Group is comprised of a group 
of companies that are involved in the utilization of Bt 
crystal-line proteins for the control of insect pests 
including external applications and Bt-engineered 
plants. The group's goals are to develop strategies for 
maximizing Bt, formulate guidelines for strategy 
implementation, promote Bt use and serve as an advisory 
group to industry.

Michael Howie, "Industry Group Funds Bt Research 
Projects," FEEDSTUFFS, August 26, 1996.

WILD SALMON THREATENED BY FISH FARM SPECIES

New research revealed that more than one fourth of 
salmon spawning in Norwegian rivers and streams are 
escapees from fish farms. The species from the fish 
farms are hatched in metal tanks, vaccinated against 
infections, and raised in sea pens artificially lighted 
to speed maturation. After five generations, the genes 
of the farm stock favor fast growth and a high fat 
content. Lars Petter Hansen, the scientist at the 
Norwegian Institute for Nature Research who conducted 
the research, said, "The heavy numbers of escaped farm 
fish make us believe that the genetic constitution of 
wild stocks will change so that they will be less 
adapted to their local habitats." 

Wild salmon have homing instincts that aid them in 
finding their native streams after spending a lifetime 
at sea, whereas farm salmon tend to swim up whichever 
stream is nearest at spawning time. Wild salmon are 
genetically different from one river to the next, and 
the fear of crossbreeding with strays will erase the 
river-specific characteristics necessary for long-term 
survival. During a series of storms in 1990, 
approximately four million fish escaped from fish farms 
into Norwegian waters, and in 1992 another large 
breakout occurred during a hurricane. An estimated 
200,000 to 650,000 salmon escaped in 1995. In the 
Saltdals Fjord, near Bodoe, 90 percent of the salmon 
netted over several weeks last summer were identified as 
farm fish. 

In American rivers, wild Atlantic salmon are almost 
extinct. Research in Canada and the U.S. is preliminary, 
but the Magaguadavic River in New Brunswick has become a 
prevalent area for scientific studies on the effects of 
intermingling of wild and domesticated fish. DNA studies 
comparing today's wild salmon in the river with 
specimens preserved from the 1970's show there had been 
unwelcome cross-breeding.

Walter Gibbs, "Fish Farm Escapees Threaten Wild Salmon," 
THE NEW YORK TIMES, October 1, 1996.

FOREIGN TRADEMARK RULING 

A South African appeals court issued a long-awaited 
ruling in August barring competitors from using the 
world-famous name and symbols of McDonald's restaurants. 
Other foreign companies have been watching the case 
because they wanted to be assured that their trademarks 
and protected material would be free from piracy. 
Clifford Green, McDonald's attorney in the case, said 
the ruling "brought South Africa in line with 
international intellectual property protection." 

The dispute started when McDonald's opened its first 
restaurant in South Africa last year. Other local 
businesses opened new restaurants capitalizing on the 
publicity and claiming  ownership of the McDonald's 
trademark. The dispute arose when George Sombonos, owner 
of a Chicken Licken restaurant chain, went to court to 
prevent McDonald's from using the McDonald's name in 
South Africa. The suit was filed prior to the cutoff 
date of the South African 1995 Trademarks Act which 
offered protection to world-recognized names. McDonald's 
had been registered in South Africa in 1968 but 
sanctions prevented them from opening a restaurant until 
last year. Under the previous law, foreign companies not 
using its trademark for five years could lose the right 
to use its name in South Africa.

Tom Cohen, "South Africa Court Ruling Is Victory for 
McDonald's," ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, August 28, 1996.

GENE THERAPY TESTED FOR ORAL CANCER

The Cancer Research Institute in Mumbai, India has taken 
the first step toward using gene therapy to fight oral 
cancer, which is the most prevalent malignancy among 
Indian men. The research team based its efforts on a 
technique developed in the U.S. about five years ago. 
Using a genetically engineered version of a virus called 
murine leukemia that causes blood cancer in mice, they 
will cripple the virus so that it will not replicate. 
The next step is to combine a gene producing the 
thymidine kinase enzyme with the DNA of the crippled 
virus. This will then be injected into oral tumours of 
the patients, followed by a drug which destroys the 
tumor cells infected with the virus. Tests are being 
conducted on animals; trials on humans are likely to 
being in 1998.

"Genes to the Rescue," DOWN TO EARTH, September 30, 
1996.

NAFTA FORUM TO REVIEW BIOTECHNOLOGY ISSUES

The trinational NAFTA Sanitary/Phytosanitary Committee 
is reviewing whether it is the proper venue to discuss 
issues related to the regulation of genetically 
engineered crops such as corn and cotton. At a NAFTA 
S/PS Committee meeting held in Ottawa on June 20, the 
countries agreed that it will be necessary to determine 
whether biotechnology issues should be under the scope 
of the committee even though members do not have the 
technical expertise in that area, and if it is, "which 
disciplines should apply." The review is being conducted 
in response to Mexico's concern that genetically altered 
corn and cotton grown in the U.S. border states could 
spread across the border under NAFTA's deregulated 
economic environment. Canada expressed earlier this year 
the importance of using the trilateral forum for 
"earlier consideration" of trade in genetically modified 
materials with a view to avoid future trade irritants.

"NAFTA S/PS Forum to Weigh Option of Covering 
Biotechnology Issues," INSIDE NAFTA, August 7, 1996.

_____________________________
RESOURCES
_____________________________

"The World Seed Market: Developments and Strategies," 
analyzes several crops and the agricultural seed sector, 
and the changes and outlook for the seed industry 
including biotechnology; Rabobank Nederland, Marketing 
Services, P.O. Box 17100, 3500 HG Utrecht, Netherlands; 
phone: 31-30-2162804; fax: 31-20-2161976

_____________________________
EVENTS
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Patent law conference, November 7-8, 1996, Barton Creek 
Conference Resort, Austin, TX; sponsored by the 
University of Texas School of Law; call 512-475-6700.

Link to Biodiversity Unit Homepage

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