NGOs Demand a Fundamental Re-thinking of the WTO TRIPS agreement

Geneva, 17.09.2001 - As World Trade Organisation (WTO) delegates meet for the last time to debate the contentious agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property (TRIPS) before the WTO Ministerial in Doha in November, groups from around the world have converged on Geneva to express opposition against patenting of life forms and the agreement’s wide ranging implications on health and human rights.

Berne Declaration, Action Aid, Misereor

A leader of the San group of Southern Africa, farmers from the Philippines and Pakistan and a doctor from India provided real life testimonies about the way the TRIPs agreement impacts their lives, in the hope that this will shed a renewed light on the implications of this agreement for people living and working in the South. TRIPS has received strong criticism from farmers, indigenous groups, NGOs worldwide and even policymakers.

“Realising how TRIPS can hurt small farmer’ interests and sustainable agriculture in general, I have undertaken my own advocacy against TRIPS. I am campaigning to fellow farmers not to respect this system, which should be more aptly referred to as Trade Related Intellectual PIRACY. We will not submit ourselves to such a regime, and continue to uphold our rights as farmers to do whatever is necessary to protect, conserve and improve our seeds.” said 53 year old Leopolodo Guilaran, a rice farmer from Southern Philippines.

These speakers are backed by a global coalition of organisations including ActionAid, Berne Declaration, Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy and Misereor. The coalition charges that TRIPS is a protectionist devise promoting corporate monopolies of seeds, genes and medicines. They also charge that TRIPS shifts the balance of control away from public interest to the private gain of patent holders.

According to ActionAid Pakistan’s food policy officer Aftab Alam, a worldwide movement is building that demands proof of the benefits of TRIPS as promised by big governments and business. “The world’s poorest people are at the forefront of the fight against TRIPS,” he said. “With the Doha Ministerial around the corner now is the time to stand up to the pressure being exerted by powerful countries such as the US and EU.”

The NGOs, joined by a global coalition of groups opposing TRIPS, are calling on the Doha Ministerial to:

  • Undertake a fundamental review and reform of TRIPS;
  • End bilateral pressures and bullying tactics with developing countries;
  • Extend implementation deadlines for developing countries
  • Place a moratorium on dispute settlement action;
  • Review whether TRIPS belongs within the WTO.