No to Patenting of Life! Indigenous Peoples' Statement on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) of the WTO Agreement


WE, INDIGENOUS PEOPLES from around the world, believe that nobody can own what exists in nature except nature herself. A human being cannot own its own mother. Humankind is part of Mother Nature, we have created nothing and so we can in no way claim to be owners of what does not belong to us. But time and again, western legal property regimes have been imposed on us, contradicting our own cosmologies and values.

WE VIEW with regret and anxiety how, Article 27.3b of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements will further denigrate and undermine our rights to our cultural and intellectual heritage, our plant, animal, and even human genetic resources and discriminate against our indigenous ways of thinking and behaving. This Article makes an artificial distinction between plants, animals, and micro-organisms and between "essentially biological" and "microbiological processes" for making plants and animals. As far as we are concerned all these are life forms and life creating processes which are sacred and which should not become the subject of proprietary ownership.

WE KNOW that intellectual property rights as defined in the TRIPs Agreement are monopoly rights given to individual or legal persons (e.g. transnational corporations) who can prove that the inventions or innovations they made are novel, involve an innovative step and are capable of industrial application. The application of this form of property rights over living things as if they are mechanical or industrial inventions is inappropriate. Indigenous knowledge and cultural heritage are collectively and accretionally evolved through generations. Thus, no single person can claim invention or discovery of medicinal plants, seeds or other living things.

The inherent conflict between these two knowledge systems and the manner in which they are protected and used will cause further disintegration of our communal values and practices. It can also lead to infighting between indigenous communities over who has ownership over a particular knowledge or innovation. Furthermore, it goes against the very essence of indigenous spirituality which regards all creation as sacred.

WE ARE AWARE of the various implications of the TRIPs Agreement on our lives as indigenous peoples. It will lead to the appropriation of our traditional medicinal plants and seeds and our indigenous knowledge on health, agriculture and biodiversity conservation. It will undermine food security, since the diversity and agricultural production on which our communities depend would be eroded and would be controlled by individual, private and foreign interests. In addition, the TRIPs Agreement will substantially weaken our access to and control over genetic and biological resources; plunder our resources and territories; and contribute to the deterioration of our quality of life.

IN THE REVIEW of the Article 27.3 (b) of the TRIPs Agreement, therefore, our proposals are as follows;

This Article should be amended to categorically disallow the patenting of life forms. Thus, the revised Article 27.3b should clearly prohibit the patenting of plants and animals including all their parts, meaning, genes, gene sequences, cells, proteins, seeds, etc. It should also prohibit the patenting of natural processes involving the use of plants, animals and other living organisms and their parts and processes used in producing variations of plants, animals, and micro-organisms.

The provision for the protection of plant varieties by either a patent, a sui generis system, or a combination of both should amended and elaborated further: It should;

We urge the WTO Member-States to put the amendment of the TRIPs Agreement as a priority item in agenda of the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle. The implementation of the TRIPs Agreement in its present form will have devastating social and environmental consequences which will be irreversible. It is an imperative, therefore, that this Agreement be amended to prohibit the patenting of lifeforms and the piracy of indigenous peoples knowledge and resources.

We also call on all the WTO Member-States to work for the extension of the deadline of the implementation of Article 27.3b of TRIPs to the year 2006, five years after the completion of the review of this has been done.

Finally, we reiterate our commitment to sustain our struggle to have our rights to our intellectual and cultural heritage and our lands and resources promoted and protected. We call on the WTO to become an instrument in promoting our rights instead of enacting and imposing Agreements which are violative or undermining our rights as distinct peoples.

Signed at the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, on 25 July l999





l. Victoria Tauli Corpuz Tebtebba Foundation and Philippines Asian Indigenous Women's Network

2. Aucan Huilcaman Consejo de Todas Las Tierras Chile Mapuche

3. Johnson Ole Kaunga OSILIGI (Organisation for the Kenya Survival of Il-Laikipiak Indigenous Group Initiative)

4. Mililani Trask Na Koa Ikai Ka o Kalahui United States of Hawai'i America

5. Antonio Jacanimijoy COICA (Coordinadora de las Ecuador Organizaciones Indigenas De la Cuenca Amazonica)

6. Rodrigo de la Cruz COICA Ecuador

7. Fortunato Turpo Comision Juridica de los Pueblos Peru De Integracion Tahuantinsuyana (COJPITA)

8. Marcial Arias Associacion Napguana Panama

9. Tomas Condori CISA Bolivia

10. Nolasco Mamani CISA (Consejo Indio de Bolivia Sud America)

11. Ramon Conde Taller de Historia Andina (THOA) Bolivia

12. Eugenio Poma World Council of Churches Bolivia

13. Cesar Sarasara Confederacion de Nacionalidades Peru Amazonicos del Peru (CONAP

14. Eduardo Gaunilo Guatemala

15. Jose Canceunco Cocio Mexico

16. Ara Rusuramang Aboriginal Cultural Promotion Taiwan Association

17. Nger-Nger Aboriginal Cultural Promotion Taiwan Association

18. Ligerlale A-wu Aboriginal Cultural Promotion Taiwan Association

18. Julius Madulu Hadza People Tanzania

19. Lourdes Maldonado Federacion Indigena y Campesina Ecuador de Imbabura (FICI)

20. Simon Charles Hadza Peoples Tanzania

21. Alison Johnston Caldwell First Nation Canada

22. Lucy Mulenkei African Indigenous Womens Kenya Network/Indigenous Information Network

23. Tracey Whare Ngatira Marae/ Ngatira Lands Aotearoa/New Trust Zealand

24. Estebancio Castro Movimiento de la Juventud Panama Kuna (MJK)

25. Marty Waters Native Council of Port Heiden USA

26. Loyal David Hauheng Bawm Indigenous Peoples' Bangladesh Organization

27. Samiran Dewan Forum for Development in Bangladesh Chittagong Hill Tracts

28. Khua Ukltan Chin Human Rights Organization Burma

29. Hkun Okker PaO Peoples Liberation Thailand Organization

30. David Cung Bik Ling Chin Human Rights Organization Switzerland

31. Joan Carling Cordillera Peoples' Alliance (CPA) Philippines

32. Chito Balintay Pagkakaisa ng Aeta ng Pinatubo Philippines

33. Nepuni Piku Naga Peoples' Movement India for Human Rights (NPMHR)

34. Clotilde Musabeyezu Association Pour La Promotion Rwanda Des Batwa (APB) Femmes Masnabamdi

35. Jose Morales Asociacion Tohil Morales Guatemala de los Ninos Mayas de Guatemala

36. Kittisack Rattanakanjangrii IMPECT (Inter-Mountain Peoples Thailand Education and Culture in Thailand

37. Maria Mangte Indian Confederation of India Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ICITP)

38. Derhagra Mochahary United Bodo Nationalists India Liberation Front

39. Prithibi Majhi Adivasi Socio-Education and India Cultural Association

40. Francoise Crozier Federation des Organisations French Guiana Amerindiennes de Guyane Francaise

41. Alfred Ilenre International Alliance of Indigenous Nigeria and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests/ Ethnic Minority Rights Organization of Africa

42. Robi Lal Basumatra India

43. Jebra Ram Muchahary Tribal Welfare Society India Assam Branch

44. Hubertus Samangun IAITPTP Indonesia

45. Parshu Ram Tamang Nepal Tamang Ghedung Nepal

46. Euclides Pereira COICA Brazil

47. Senchumo Lotha Naga Students Federation Nagaland,India

48. Ratnaker Bhengra JOHAR India

49. Lars Anders Baer Saami Council Sweden

50. Eduardo Solang Cordillera Peoples' Alliance Philippines

51. Oki Kano Ainu International Network Japan

52. Kiyomi Matsushima AIP in Ryukyus/Uchinan-Chu Japan

53. Hidenori Chinen AIP in Ryukyus Japan

54. Andrea Flores Tonconi Organicacion de Mujereres Bolivia Aymaras del Kollasuyo (OMAK)

55. Tarcila Rivera Zea CHIRAPAQ Peru

56. Bineet Jaynel Mundu Chotanagpur Adivasi Seva India Samiti (CASS/Munda)

57. Liton Bom Chin Human Rights Organization Burma

58. Juan Leon Defensoria Maya Guatemala

59. Rigoberto Juarez Mateo Coordinadora de Organizaciones Guatemala del Pueblo Maya de Guatemala

60. Helena Begay Sovereign Dineh Nation of Cactus USA Valley/Red Willow Springs Community

61. Neingulo Krome Naga Peoples' Movement for India Human Rights (NPMHR)

62. Amina Zioual ANCAP-Tamaynut Morocco

63. Ahmed Arehmouch ANCAP-Tamaynut Morocco

64. Hjalmar Dahl Inuit Circumpolar Conference Greenland

65. Raja Devasish Roy Chakma Chief: TAUNGYA Bangladesh

66. Joji Carino Tebtebba Foundation United Kingdom

67. Jimid Mansayagan Lumad Mindanaw Peoples' Philippines Federation


68. Jose Montes France

69. Miriam Anne Frank Netherlands Centre for Indigenous The Netherlands Peoples (NCIV)

70. Fiona Archer South Africa

71. Maurizio Farhan Ferrari Forest Peoples' Programme United Kingdom

72. Enrique Cano Spain

73. Richard Rainsford

74. Genaro Blanco Pagkakaisa ng Aeta ng Pinatubo Philippines

75. Roger Gaberell Switzerland

76. Thomas Stenersen Switzerland

77. Josdoa Inaki Arregi Basque, Spain

78. Toshi Aiuchi Shimin Gaikou Centre (SGC) Japan

79. Uemura Hideaki SGC Japan

80. Lo Man Fong SGC Japan

81. Chika Onaka SGC Japan

82. Kelly Dietz SGC Japan

83. Eri Ocho SGC Japan

84. Anneke Groth Tourism Alert Switzerland

85. Carla Barbosa Secretaria do Estado de Sao Brazil Paulo do Meio Ambiente

86. Andrea Muhlebach International Workgroup for USA Indigenous Affairs

87. Rebecca Fan University of Colombia USA

86. Yvonne Mei-Jung Aboriginal Cultural Promotion Taiwan Association

87. Raymundo Rovillos Tebtebba Foundation Philippines

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