Congressmen and environmentalists unite to stop intellectual property rights accord with U.S.

Quito Ecuador (July 26 1996) - A last ditch attempt to rush through the ratification of an intellectual property rights treaty with the U.S. was blocked late last night when environmentalists, aided by deputies opposed to the accord, staged a peaceful "sit in" of the Congressional chamber.

Members of Congress attempted to use the last working day before the new government assumes power in August to push through the accord, amongst other legislation, with little time for debate. However, after twenty minutes of the occupation by members of Accion Ecologica, an environmental group based in Quito, the president of the Ecuadorian Congress, Fabian Alarcon, who himself opposed the ratification of the accord, closed the session.

Outraged by recent applications in the U.S. for patents on both widely available medicines and sacred plants, many Ecuadorians have staunchly opposed the U.S. deal, which would make the recognition of these patents obligatory in Ecuador. Opposition ranges from indigenous groups to national pharmaceutical manufacturers and even Congress itself, where the international affairs commission recently recommended non- ratification.

Originally signed in 1993 by the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the U.S., Edgar Teran, and representatives of the U.S. government, the treaty covers intellectual property rights, and most importantly the patenting of plants and "essentially non biological processes" such as plants cultured in the laboratory and human genetic sequences.

Other contentious issues include Micro organisms and microbiological processes can also be patented, something not possible under the terms of the Pacto Andino of which Ecuador is a member; that the pact does not recognize traditional knowledge of campesino and native communities nor does it benefit them; that the issue of technology transfer to countries in the south is not addressed; and that there are absolutley no financial benefits for Ecuador from any type of patents recognised by the accord.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Bravo a biologist and member of Accion Ecologica, "the treaty has major defects and should be discarded, in fact some of the major points contradict the multi-lateral treaties such as the Uruguay round of the GATT (administered by the World Trade Organisation) and the Pacto Andino (which includes Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela)".

Further information contact: Elizabeth Bravo, Acción Ecológica 593-2-547-516

Posted to saiic-l on July 29, 1996.


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