Cover Image
close this bookBiotechnology and the Future of World Agriculture (GRAIN, 1991)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentAbout grain
View the documentAbout the author
View the documentAbbreviations
View the documentPrologue
View the documentThe fourth resource
close this folderAgriculture in crisis
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe soil and water crisis
View the documentThe productivity crisis
View the documentThrough the looking glass
View the documentThe hidden harvest
View the documentThe problems not addressed
View the documentBiotechnology, the solution?
close this folderThe tools
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentCutting and pasting
View the documentAbout language and limitations
View the documentCulturing cells and tissues
View the documentControlling the process
View the documentA new threshold?
close this folderThe actors
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPublic or private?
View the documentDominance of transnational corporations (TNCs)
View the documentThe concentration within
close this folderProviding the inputs
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe biased focus: herbicide tolerance
View the documentEroding the options
View the documentArtificial solutions?
close this folderTransforming the output
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe circle of sugar
View the documentThe chocolate crop
View the documentThe battle for vegetable oils
View the documentInterchanging products, markets and producers
close this folderControlling the profit
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAn historical appraisal
View the documentThe great reversal
View the documentTightening the grip: the push for patents on life
View the documentBox: Twelve Reasons to say no to life patents
View the documentThe implications
close this folderAppropriate biotechnology?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe IARCs and the privatization of biotechnology
View the documentThird world national efforts to get involved
close this folderThe original biotechnologist
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDiversity for production
View the documentMultiple cropping, multiple benefits
View the documentBiotechnology for the people
View the documentPromoting people's participation
View the documentEpilogue

(introduction...)

'Patents are a paradise for parasites.'
'Patents protection forms a stumbling block for the development of trade and industry.'
'The patent system is a playground for plundering patent agents and lawyers.'
(J. Geigy-Merian, Geigy Firm - later Ciba-Geigy, 1883) (1)

'It is Ciba-Geigy's position that legal protection of intellectual property serves the public interest by stimulating continuing investment in technological innovation.'
(John H. Duesing, Ciba-Geigy, 1989) (2)

One century might seem a long time. It was certainly long enough for companies like Ciba-Geigy to change their minds about what to think of intellectual property systems. From describing patent systems as a paradise for parasites to considering them to be serving the public interest is quite a leap indeed. In the 19th century, Geigy and colleagues from other Swiss firms were in a vehement battle against any form of patent protection and had managed five times to reject calls for a national referendum on the matter. When two referenda on patent protection were finally held in 1882 and 1886, they were successfully defeated, largely due to the intense lobbying activities of Geigy and friends.

Now, over one hundred years later, Ciba-Geigy sends company representatives all over the globe to promote stronger patent protection for everything that can be made in its laboratories; and that includes life forms. With almost emotional arguments, companies now try to convince the world that there is no progress, no development and no happiness without strong intellectual property systems. Those countries which do not have them are charged with 'theft' and 'piracy', and accused of putting national interest above 'internationally accepted principles of fair trade'. (3)