Three people putting the protection of the planet before themselves. Three powerful stories from Latin America, the deadliest region for environmental activists.
We are Earth, we are nature. Patenting biodiversity means stealing the nature of life
The patenting and piracy of biodiversity and nature is a violation of spiritual, ecological, biodiversity and human rights laws.
We are Earth. We are biodiversity. We are Jiva. We are conscious. We are alive. We are free.
We are members of one interconnected earth-family: of sovereign, autonomous, self organised, interdependent, intelligent beings.
We are biodiversity: interconnected to other beings through food and water, through breath and air, through life, and intelligence. Like our fellow beings, human beings are sovereign, living, intelligent, self organised, autonomous beings; mutually interdependent and sustaining. In the living world of biodiversity, all life is sacred, and life strives to nourish and support life. Life is the nature of the living. The patenting and piracy of life — of biodiversity, of natural processes, and nature itself (including the minds and bodies of human beings) — is a violation of spiritual law, ecological law, biodiversity laws and human rights laws.
But one does not need to look at “theft” through these lenses to see “theft as theft”. Patenting of life is the theft of life — claiming that which is not yours to claim. Patents on life, quite simply, are the enslavement of life itself, stealing (or pirating) the nature of life.
The mechanical mind separates, mines and extracts
The mechanical mind, connected to the money machine of extraction, created the illusion of humans as separate from nature, and nature as dead, inert raw material to be exploited. The ‘death of nature’ assumption is at the core of the logic of extractivism and the metaphor of mining – of land from indigenous peoples, of fertility from the soil, of water from rivers and underground aquifers, of genes from biodiversity, and knowledge from indigenous communities. Biopiracy is the mining of knowledge and biodiversity for patents and Intellectual property rights.
A new biopiracy is under way — through patents on data of our bodies and minds, and mining of such data as “Human Body Activity”. We are being turned into the next raw material. Our minds and bodies are the latest colony for mining and extraction. They did say “data is the new oil”, and just as the oil industry extracted oil to fuel its war on the planet, data is already being used against the minds and bodies of people.
This is a higher level of biopiracy, because it is an attempt at creating new tools of manipulation and control. It is an attempt to make human beings disappear in a world being engineered through the narrow blinkered mechanical mind which cannot see anything beyond its extractive machine for money making. The mechanical mind sees only its objective: profit. We stand at a precipice of extinction. Will we allow our humanity as living, conscious, intelligent autonomous beings be extinguished, by the greed machine, that does not know limits and is unable to put a break on its colonisation and destruction? Or, will we stop the machine and defend our humanity, freedom and autonomy? So many species have been driven to extinction, no longer able to survive, because the conditions necessary fir their survival were no longer available. We have a choice: do we continue protecting the conditions for our survival, or do we extract all life for “profit” — leaving a dead planet in our wake, on our way to our own funeral.
For five decades I have worked on the reality of non separability, including my PhD on Non nocality and non separability in quantum theory. My passionate commitment to dedicate my life to understanding the ecological interconnectedness of biodiversity, and protection of biodiversity, started with the Chipko movement. For me, protection of biodiversity is protecting both for the integrity of life as well as the rights and needs of local communities who have been conservers and custodians of biodiversity. I witnessed how the mechanical mind — of powerful men, who run the money machine — reduced forests, which were sources of water, food, fuel for local communities, to timber mines for extraction. They reduced rivers, including the sacred Ma Ganga into Cusecs of water, to be extracted for privatisation, or kilowatts of energy, to to be extracted through dams and hydroelectric power plants.
Life is not an invention. Seeds are not machines.
In 1987, when I was attending a conference on the “Laws of life”, on the new biotechnologies, I first heard the poison cartel (the group of chemical companies including the erstwhile IG Farben) attempting to define living organisms, and seeds, as machines that they had invented and wanted to patent. I was aware that the seed is not a machine assembled by chemical corporations. It is the embodiment of biodiversity and nature’s urge to reproduce, renew and multiply. Genetically modified seeds are seeds pirated from farmers, and modified with genes of naturally occurring bacteria. The only “invention” is shooting genes in a lab with a gene gun or infecting a cell with Agrobacterium, a plant cancer. Corporations pirate seed and mine genes to make GMOs. Patenting seed was ecologically, ethically, ontologically wrong. It is a wrong that must be corrected. Thirty-three years ago, I began my journey to protect the Biodiversity the integrity and diversity of seed, and prevent biopiracy and patents on seeds.
Navdanya grew from this commitment to biodiversity. The movement has reclaimed seed as a commons, and created 150 community seed banks. Across the world, we have inspired the seed freedom movement. A new consciousness has grown about Seed Sovereignty.
We have also passed laws and treaties to protect biodiversity. The Earth summit in Rio in 1992 witnessed the emergence of a new legal framework for the convention on biodiversity. India passed her national biodiversity act in 2002: “An Act to provide for conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources, knowledge and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”.
India has passed laws that recognise that seed is not an invention and hence not patentable. Art 3 of the Patent act clearly defines what are not inventions, hence excluded from patentability. Art 3j of the Indian patent act excludes from patentability: “plants and animals in whole or in any part thereof other than microorganisms; but including seeds, varieties, and species, and essentially biological processes for production or propagation of plants and animals”. This was the article used by the Indian patent office to strike down a Monsanto patent on climate resilient seeds, as well as Monsanto’s patent claims on Bt cotton seed.
India’s law titled Plant variety protection and farmers rights act 2001 has a clause on farmers rights: “a farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this Act” Not only did we put into law the integrity of life and biodiversity by clearly stating that plants, animals and seeds are not an invention, we also fought and won cases to challenge patents based on biopiracy — such USDA and WR Grace Neem (patent No 436257), Ricetec’s Basmati (patent number 56,63,484 ) and Monsanto’s Wheat Patent (patent number 962578). I have written in my book Biopiracy that patents on life and patents on seeds are the second coming of Columbus.
A bit of history on world biodiversity day
In 1492, Columbus was given a letters patent by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel of Castile in Spain, to “discover and subdue some Islands and continents in the ocean”. The continent that Columbus was looking for was India, and that is why all indigenous peoples of North America are referred to as Indians. Having returned from the “Discovery of America”, he wrote to the King and Queen about the gold, its mining, its processing, and its transport to Castile. There was not a word about the original people, not a second thought about the theft. Theft and piracy were central to colonisation, and still are. In 1493, Pope Alexandar issued a Papal Bull “Inter Caetera,” to naturalise the take over of the land, territories and wealth of indigenous people, and define Colonialism as the Civilising Mission of the Church, through European Monarchs and their pirates and merchant-adventurers. In our times, Columbus, the monarchs, the Pope, and God have all collapsed into one – the billionaires who play God through their tools and technologies, who define and shape the new “civilising missions” based on those tools and technologies of extraction and control. New religions which must be forcibly imposed on the entire world.
Patent number 060606: our bodies and minds are not ‘mines of data’, we are sovereign and autonomous beings
At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic and in the midst of the lock down, on 26 March, Microsoft was granted a world patent – WO 2020/060606 by WIPO,World intellectual property organisation.
Just as our biodiversity and indigenous knowledge were “mined” — for patenting and biopiracy, and there was an attempt to reduce us to consumers of GMO patented seed, manipulated and engineered by pirating our seeds without permission and consent — there is now an attempt to mine and pirate the data from our bodies and minds, without our permission and consent. Our humanity and autonomy are being stolen. We are being reduced to “users” of the “machines” which are extracting our humanity and our information to build the next stage of the mechanical, money machine.
Patent 060606 reads: “Human body activity associated with a task provided to a user may be used in a mining process of a crypocurrency system. A server may provide a task to a device of a user which is communicatively coupled to the server. A sensor communicatively coupled to or comprised in the device of the user may sense body activity of the user. Body activity data may be generated based on the sensed body activity of the user. The cryptocurrency system communicatively coupled to the device of the user may verify if the body activity data satisfies one or more condition set by the cryptocurrency system and award cryptocurrency to the user whose body activity is verified”.
The patent is dramatically changing the meaning of being human. Firstly, it is redefining us as ‘mines’ for data — robbing us of our autonomy, our sovereignty, and control over our bodies and minds. The patent is an Intellectual Property claim over our body, and our minds. And just being connected through their “server” is giving consent. Just as through colonialism, the colonisers assigned themselves the right to take the land, the resources, the earth of the indigenous people, extinguishing their cultures and soveregnties, and in extreme cases exterminating them, patent WO 060606 is a unilateral declaration by Microsoft of our bodies and minds as their new colonies. We are being reduced to mines of “raw material” — the data extracted from us.
The “body activity” that Microsoft wants to mine without our permission, without our consent, includes, but is not limited to: “radiation emitted from the human body, brain activities, body fluid flow (eg blood flow)organ activity or movement, body movement, and any other activities that can be sensed and represented by images, waves, signals, texts, numbers, degrees, or any other form of information or data. Example of body radiation emitted from human body may include radiant heat of body, pulse rate, or brain wave.
Brain waves may comprise, for example, but not limited to 1. gamma waves, involved in learning or memory tasks 2. beta wave,s involved in logical thinking and/or conscious thought 3. alpha waves, which may be related to subconscious thoughts 4. theta waves, which may be related to thoughts involving deep and raw emotions 5. delta waves, which may be involved in sleep or deep relaxation or 6. electoencephalogram (EEG) which may be measurement used to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain, such as deep concentration. Examples of the body movement include eye movement, facial movement, or any other muscular movement .”
Patent number 060606 undermines our humanity
Secondly, it is erasing our humanity — as sovereign, living beings, spiritual, conscious, intelligent beings, making our decisions and choices with wisdom and ethical values about the impacts of our actions on the natural and social world of which we are a part; and to which we are inextricably related. We are being reduced to being “users” of tasks assigned to us by the extractive digital mega machine. A “user” is a consumer without choice in the digital empire. Human creativity and consciousness disappear in the world imagined in patent060606. Thirdly, the patent is redefining human values, and the value of being human. Human values include ethical, ecological, spiritual values.
For us, right livelihood is Dharma, the right action in the web of life of which we are part. Sustaining and nourishing our ecological relationships as earth-family and our social relationships as one Humanity in our diversities, is what makes us spiritual, self organised and compassionate beings. The value of being human is measured through love and compassion, through sharing and giving. The measure and currency of life is life and love. Value is derived from “valere” – to be strong. Strength comes from our self organised autonomy and interrelationships, our spiritual, emotional, ecological resilience, which grows from deep within our being.
Patent 060606 is aimed at robbing us of our deep humanity. We are being transformed from self organised, conscious, creative, autopoetic beings, into external input “users” whose value will be assigned in cryptocurrency through algorithms, by the very machine that gave us the task in the first place. Having extracted our “body data”, including our brain function, algorithms will assign a “target rage of valid body function.” A machine will determine the type of machine we are allowed to be. “For example the user device may generate raw data of the sensed body activity, transmit it to a cryptocurrency system, and then the cryptocurrency system may codify the raw data… The cryptocurrency system verifies if the body activity data of user satisfies one or more conditions set by an algorithm of the cryptocurrency system… The condition may be set by simulating human body activity across all of body activities… Machine learning algorithms may be used to simulate body activities and set the conditions for valid body activities… When the body activity data transmitted from user device satisfies one or more conditions set by cryptocurrency system, cryptocurrency system awards cryptocurrency to user”
Our value as human beings will be allocated by a machine, the cryptocurrency system
The root of “currency” is the “condition of flowing”. Life flows between living systems, between the Biodiversity that makes the earth-family. The currency of life is life. The currency of life is food. The currency of life is water. The currency of life is breath and air. The currency of life is living knowledge. The currency of life is intelligence. The currency of life is freedom. And since life is based on mutuality and giving, the currency of life is not a one way extraction, but a two way flow, a nourishing and giving back in love, friendship, gratitude, oneness. It is the currency of life that weaves the relationships in the earth-family and sustains the flow of life. The money machine reduced the meaning of “currency” to be only money. Then the money machine declared a war on cash and made cash illegal. Currency was forcibly reduced to digital currency to reduce user control. Patent 060606 is the next step of reductionism and total control by reducing us from vibrant living beings to mines for extraction of “data” as the new oil, the new raw material, with our worth and value assigned by the extractor in “cryptocurrency”.
Our value in the Microsoft world is not as sovereign beings but as cryptocurrency assigned my the machine. We are being reduced to their digital currency. Our reality is being destroyed to engineer us into virtual dots in the digital machine, beyond the control of humans, democracies and even national sovereign governments. As the patent states: “A virtual currency (also known as digital currency) is a medium of exchange implemented through the Internet generally, not tied to a specific government “flat” (printed) currency such as the US dollar or the Euro, and typically designed to allow instantaneous transactions and borderless transfer of ownership. One example of virtual currency is cryptocurrency.” The Patent is in fact a patent to end humanity and human beings as embodying freedom and autonomy based on interconnectedness and oneness with other beings. As mines for “body data”, as “users” of structures of control, with our value assigned by algorithms in cryptocurrencies, we are extinguished as living, breathing, thinking, compassionate, sovereign beings. We are being reduced to being turned into digital cogs in the digital money machine and digital dictatorship of Microsoft.
Biopiracy is a crime
We are not a genetic mine, nor a mine for data of our body activity, data mined without our permission and consent. Biopiracy is a crime, no matter what the instrument of extraction and piracy, no matter which biological being is pirated and patented. This is colonialism and piracy taken to the ultimate invasive level, with our body’s data as the new colony. This is the ultimate separatism and reductionismof the mechanical reductionist mind. This is not just biopiracy of our autonomous living body, it is engineering the disappearance of human beings, human values, human significance, human meaning. It is engineering the disappearance of living beings and their living intelligences. It is engineering an end to democracy of economies run by real beings for the real needs of living beings. It is engineering an end to sovereignties at every level and in every form. In Indian philosophy, all beings including human beings are multilayered through multiple sheaths of energy. All beings relate to other beings through these multiple energies and flows. The outer most sheath is the Annakosh, the food sheath. Next is Pranakosh, the energy sheath. Then comes Manomayakosh, the mind sheath. The Vijanamayakosh, or discernment sheath. The innermost is the Anandamayakosh, the sheath of bliss.
Patent 060606 is an embodiment of the philosophy of Adharma, of an anti life, anti human imagination. And as in all ages, Dharma has to awaken when Adharma tries to rule and dominate. Our Vijanana, our knowledge, our intelligence, our discernment needs to guide us to not be trapped by the real but invisible prisons being created through “virtual” constructs. The future of being human cannot be left to Microsoft and Patent Offices, just as we did not leave the future of Biodiversity in the hands of Monsanto and the Poison Cartel. Thirty-three years ago, when I heard the Poison Cartel lay bare their criminal imagination, of wanting to own seeds, I took a pledge to dedicate my life to protection of our biodiversity and Seed Freedom.
On this world biodiversity day, I pledge to dedicate the rest of my life to the protection of all life, the freedom of all beings, and human freedom.
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