a bloody war is brewing within the portals of the United Nations as two un bodies, the Food and Agricultural Organization (fao) and the un Environment Programme (unep) fight for the control of the world's plant genetic resources. While the recently held World Food Summit in Rome (Down To Earth, Vol 5, No 14) viewed fao as the saviour of the world's crop plants (wherein it will have the last word on preserving plants in fields and in seed banks), the un Convention on Biological Diversity organised by unep and held around the same time in Buenos Aires, wanted that unep be allowed to protect both wild species and crops.
Said Stein Bie, director of research at fao, "We are worried and confused. Some countries said different things at Rome and in Buenos Aires." At stake is a world genes market estimated to be nearly us $5 billion a year through sales of patented seeds as one instance. According to Pat Mooney of the Canada-based Rural Advancement Foundation International, Argentina, Australia and Brazil, backed by us, were keen on unep getting the brief for the protection of plant genetic resources.
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