Eu, Us, and Japan push 'global' patents for big corporations.

US, Japanese and European patents office officials have been working on a new global patent system that will likely facilitate the continued undermining of farmers' rights. The new system will allow patent recognition in a single country to be enough to confer worldwide patent rights. "In the process" says Vandana Shiva of India's Research Foundation "they will make it easier for biopirates to monopolise traditional knowledge. And to do it globally. Imagine if the so-called inventors of the US patent turmeric had been granted a world claim along with US monopoly!" According to CONTAG's Adriano Soares, such a system might be "a Trojan horse for the imposition of US patent standards if you can really call them standards on the South". Even if the system was only initially applied in the North, "It probably wouldn't be long before the US started knocking on our door insisting that the only way to comply with trade agreements is to accept the policies of the US patent office implemented through global patents."

Reprinted from "BIOLTALK" a publication of the Coalition Against Biopiracy. E-mail:

Nomadic Tribe on Amazon Now Safe

The Nukak, one of the last surviving nomadic tribes in the Amazon, have received title to 100% of their land from the Colombian government. For the first time in their history they now have secured their land tenure and their livelihood.The Nukak first came into sustained contact with white people in 1988. Since then they suffered massacre from white colonists and started dying from western diseases. Survival has been campaigning on their behalf since 1991 and that campaign has now been hugely successful.

In a letter to Survival's members, the national Indian organisation of Colombia said: "On behalf of the indigenous peoples of Colombia we want to thank you for your wonderful work, and especially for your campaign of last September. This victory would not have been achieved without your international campaign".

Survival is a worldwide organisation supporting tribal peoples. You can join by contacting: Survival, 11-15 Emerald Street, London WC1N 3QL, UK. Ph. 0171-242 1441; Fax: 0171-242 1771. Email:

Labour Behind The Label

"I sewed on collars. I was paid St£4.64 a month. I often worked overtime, without pay. I worked from 7 am to 10 pm or sometimes all night, for seven days a week. I had 30 minutes for lunch and we had to eat at our machines we were not allowed out of the factory." Bokul, factory
worker in Bangladesh.

Garment workers all over the world are not just poorly paid they often work in appalling conditions which are an affront to their dignity and cause widespread ill health. Poor lighting and ventilation can lead to eye and chest problems, restricted toilet breaks to infections. Hundreds of garmentworkers have been killed in Bangladesh in factory fires caused by health and safety regulations being ignored.Even in Britain and Ireland, average pay among homeworkers is £1.50 an hour. As consumers, we can choose to encourage retailers to make positive choices and ensure that workers are treated fairly. With your help, Labour Behind the Label is encouraging retailers to:
- adopt codes of conduct resecting the core conventions set by the United Nations' International
Labour Organisation (ILO) and guaranteeing good working conditions, a living wage and the right to form and join independent trade unions to allworkers involved in the chain of production.
- accept independent verification of hou codes are put into practice.
- make such information available to consumers so that we are able to make better informed choices.

As consumers, we can support the workers who make our clothes by demanding that what we wear is made under decent conditions.
Contact: Labour Behind the Label, c/o NEAD, 38, Exchange Street, Norwich NR2 1AX, UK.

Norway and Cuba Cancel Debts, but not Ireland

The Norwegian government recently announced their plan to cancel the debts owed to it by the poorest countries. This unilateral action by Norway marks a significant break with the creditor cartel which meets in the Paris Club. Rich creditor governments present a united front to debtor countries who are forced to come individually to the Paris Club to make deals on their debts. Congratulations to the Norwegian students who have campaigned actively for
debt cancellation since 1992.

In a similar act of generosity and compassion, Cuba announced its cancellation of a debt of $50 million owed by Nicaragua. The act was an immediate response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch. It was preceded by a Cuban offer to send doctors and other aid which, in a bizarre move, the right-wing government of Nicaragua refused to accept.

The announcement took place at a time when Cuba itself is suffering severe economic hardship resulting from the continuing and intensified US blockade - a blockade which is deliberately intended to increase Cuba's own foreign debt.Meanwhile, Mr Mc Creevy, Ireland's Finance
Minister, expressed strong opposition to debt cancellation in a meeting with representatives of the Debt and Development Coalition. Rather than give heavily indebted countries a debt free start to the 21st century, he favours maintaining the current practice of providing debt relief, as under the
Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. Mr McCreevy should listen to the message from the hundreds of thousands of people around Ireland who have signed the Jubilee 2000 petition. Twenty years of ineffective debt relief schemes are enough - we want an end to the debt crisis by the year 2000.

From Debt and Development Coalition Ireland 'Update on Debt and Development', All Hallows, Gracepark Rd, Dublin 9. Tel/Fax: 01-857 1828. Email:

EU Ban on Battery Hen Cages

In January 1999 the European Parliament voted for an end to battery hen cages by the year 2009. However, the final decision must be made by the EU Council of Agricultural Ministers, including Ireland's Minister Joe Walsh. In Ireland, 1.8 million laying hens are imprisoned in battery cages. These cages are so small, the birds are not able to stretch their wings. They do not experience natural light, cannot have a dust bath, never make a nest. Their eggs roll away from them before they can sit on them even for a while, and they have no experience whatsoever of a cockerel. It costs 2p more to produce a free-range egg than to produce a battery egg. From the hen's point of view it would certainly be worth it!

Please write to Minister Joe Walsh, Agriculture House, Kildare Street, Dublin 2 and ask him to vote for an end to battery cages.