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© Kat Morgenstern
Spring 2007

Vol.VI Issue: 1

This Issue:

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spring (89K)Spring has well and truly sprung - and this year it has come over me with a spring cleaning frenzy. This does not happen too often, so I thought I'd make the most of it and give the website a good polishing over as well. And, as these things go, once I got started and realized all the lose ends and things that don't work as they should, I got carried away and reorganized the whole thing. Hopefully things will be easier to find and to keep organized now...

A couple of things I meant to do, but haven't quite gotten around to yet, is a) to integrate a search facility that does not clutter this website with ads, like google does, and b) to create a public forum where visitors to the site can communicate with each other and share their knowledge and passion. Hopefully these things will be in place by the time the next issue comes out.

You will also note the new format of the newsletter. Instead of putting everything on one slow-loading page, we now follow the format of other magazine style websites, providing just a 'teaser' on the main page with links to the full article. You will always find your way back to the main newsletter page by following the 'home' button on the navigation bar. You will also notice that quite a range of articles is now available right from the dropdown menu of the main navigation bar. These are all the articles that have been gathering dust in the newsletter archives. Old newsletters will still be available from the archives, but as of this issue, new articles will be accessible via the direct links only. Well, I hope this all makes sense to you and I sincerely hope that new users of this site will find it easier to locate the articles and resources they are looking for.

So, now that is all done I will get a chance to run out and join you all in enjoying the spring.
Happy blossomings, everyone!
Kat Morgenstern, March 2007

I would love to hear your comments on the new format, so please send your feedback to:

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Foraging Wild Asparagus

Wild Asparagus

wild asparagus

photograph courtesy of Matt Sleigh

It's that time of the year again: spring is springing in bounds and leaps, back and forth and roundabout. What used to be April weather now passes as March, at least in this neck of the woods. Elsewhere winter is still tightly holding on, while in other regions it never really settled in, in the first place. One of the most wonderful spring things to sprout at this time of the year (to my taste, anyhow), is wild asparagus. Regular cultivated asparagus bolts in May, but the wild variety pops up a little earlier. They are much daintier, but a delicacy nevertheless. Foraging for asparagus is not like ordinary foraging. It is more akin to mushroom hunting, for asparagus has a great talent to hide itself among the briars and bushes and often you won't see them at all until they are way too old and have started to sprout their feathery fronds. But once you have developed a 'nose' for the right season and the right places where the elusive spears might be found, hunting them down is an exquisite, fun-filled adventure, which may land you in some very strange places.

Asparagus likes to grow in a variety of places, depending on the species. Asparagus likes water, but not water-logged areas. It grows in well draining soil, near ditches or riverbeds and alluvial plains, where there is plenty of moisture nearby. It usually likes full sun, though some varieties also tolerate heavier soil and semi-shaded areas.

Although asparagus has a very distinctive appearance, it can be hard to spot. Euell Gibbons, in his classic 'Stalking the wild asparagus' gives a very good description of how one can learn to detect them: focus on the dead weeds nearby and learn to recognize last years dead asparagus brush.

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That all the earth is fragile and that we must not take from her beyond what she can sustain. Overharvesting, particularly due to commercial collection of medicinal plants has brought many once plentiful plant species to the brink of extinction. As 'plant people', we should adopt an attitude of green guardianship for mother earth, who so plentifully provides for us.

Here are the rules that every forager should live and breathe by:

Get to know the plants that grow around you on a personal, first name basis: familiarize yourself with the herbs, bushes and trees in your neighborhood, try to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem of which you are a part and the plant members of your 'extended family'. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate all their uses. Try to understand it as part of a larger ecosystem. Which animals like it or dislike it? With which other plants does it form communities? Is it native or invasive? Does it protect the ground or deplete it of any of its nutrients? How does it 'fit' into its environment? What can you learn from its chemistry? Building this kind of holistic knowledge base will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant and its role within the ecosystem. Its a lengthy process, but vital if you want to truly get to know your plant friends and the habitat you share.

It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, lest they inadvertantly end up on your dinner plate, which could be most unpleasant or in the worst case scenario, even lethal. The importance of this point is completely obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. Some people hold the false and dangerous belief that what can be found in nature cannot harm them. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE. When you think you know a plant, think again and see what other, non-edible look-alikes might be fooling you. This is even more important when it comes to collecting mushrooms, as there are many poisonous mushrooms out there that have evolved to be masters at deceiving unsuspecting mushroom hunters. There are also many more potentially deadly mushrooms with edible look-alikes than there are deadly plants with edible look-alikes.

Don't be greedy!

Familiarize yourself with the plants that are listed on the endangered species list for your area. Apart from being unethical, it is also highly illegal to pick endangered plant species. Instead of taking rare plants, consider sowing their seeds in the wild.

Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch. Be especially conscienscious when it comes to harvesting roots and barks. Remember that often harvesting roots means the death of the plant, so before you start digging ask yourself if this plant is really plentiful and if it can sustain a harvest of its roots. If in doubt, don't collect. Consider growing some in your garden rather than depleting natural stands. Collecting barks can also be fatal to a tree. If you must collect this part, try to collect it from smaller branches rather than the stem, from branches that have fallen, or from trees that are due to be cut for other purposes.

However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subject to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.). And don't collect from nature reserves either - these are areas set up to protect wild species, so give them their space and let them be!

Cast seeds of native species to the earth and to the winds once in a while - as a way of giving something back. Consider adopting a little patch that you are particularly fond of. When you are out and about, never leave any litter behind, but try to bring some back with you - I always carry two bags, one for foraging and one for litter picking. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.

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Return to the Dark Ages?

Anyone entering a healthfood store or even a conventional drugstore in search of herbal or nutritional supplements might be excused for thinking that natural medicine is thriving and that all is well and safe with its continued growth in the future. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. There seems to be a semi-covert operation at work that is surreptitiously trying to undermine natural medicine, its proponents and the free accessibility of nutritional / herbal products. The campaign has many prongs - the PR machine spins dubious 'research' into half-baked scare mongering articles, which suddenly appear all over the press - even though they do not withstand the most basic methods of journalistic investigation. Yet, even the more 'respectable' press gets caught up in this blaring hype. Such campaigns are highly effective - scare tactics always work. Thus, the journal of the American Medical Association for example, can get away with suggesting that vitamin and mineral supplements could actually harm the consumer. Perhaps they could - if taken excessively, but, so could just about anything including water - which is essential to all life. (Not too long ago a young woman actually managed to kill herself by drinking excessive amounts of water in order to win some radio show contest - a case that is just too absurd for words

Meanwhile legislators, at present mostly Brusselites, are bustling and busying themselves with contriving a whole host of (mostly impractical and pointless) regulations that are supposed to control and harmonize the access and use of herbal and nutritional supplements across the EU - in order to protect the consumer, of course. (Liberties are always curtailed in the name of safety and security). But the problem starts with the bureaucrats themselves, who mostly don't have a clue about their subject matter, a fact that is painfully evident from the very wording of their copious absurd directives.

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greenglobe - agenda 21

Fresh Winds Blowing

There must be a strategic reason why travel fairs always take place in winter - even if you are a professional and well accustomed to all the publicity hype tourist brochure are composed of, promising paradise in all the most exotic, romantic, adventurous, awesome, wild, pristine, amazing places on earth, you still can't help but get infected with a bad case of wanderlust. It even happens to me on such occasions.

Just a couple of weeks ago I attended the ITB again, an international tourism trade fair that takes place in Berlin each year and in fact, the largest such event in the world. This trade fair is truly gigantic. A plethora of 'destination management' outfits, tourist boards from every corner of the world and tour operators and travel representatives, all of whom are praising their wares and destinations. The fair is also the biggest media circus in town for the entire week of its duration and also hosts a full program of peripheral talks, presentations, podium discussions and symposia on all aspects of global tourism. It's quite a buzz. But what I noticed most of all is the fact that more and more companies are taking sustainability more serious than they ever have before. Global warming is hitting a very sensitive cord in the tourism industry - afterall, it will affect many of the most remote and previously considered most pristine places in the world and thus presents a real threat which more and more operators are beginning to realize. Of course, nobody can halt global warming single-handedly or overnight, but everyone can do 'their bit'. More and more people seem to be beginning to understand the concepts on which sustainable tourism are based and what it really means - and what it could mean in terms of real social and economic improvements at the local, community level.

In all the conversations I had it became apparent to me that a new wind has begun to blow, and this is very refreshing to see. People are realizing that attracting tourists to their beautiful countries does not mean having to sell out to tourist whims. Many operators have become increasingly eager to provide quality services, more personal and private, programs that will be remembered as a special trip, rather than seeking to cater to the factory style vacation industry.

To be sure, there are still plenty of others that seem intent on ruining a beautiful spot when they see one by building monstrous developments, which preserve little of the original charm of the 'dream destination'. Others are happy to flaunt their beauty spots not to tourists, but to realty investors eager to build gated time-share communities all over the place, fostering, as it were, a new form of colonialism, as locals find it increasingly difficult to buy or build in such areas.

ties_logo (21K)But, while that makes me sad, I am trying to focus on the positive developments in this business and that is, that the word 'sustainable' has become common terminology among tourism professionals and everybody is talking about it. Where 5 years ago even the word eco-tourism was quite obscure and mostly used to describe nature tourism, now many more people are realizing the potential benefits and dangers of tourism developments. This became most apparent to me upon visiting a symposium on sustainable development, which showcased several instances in different countries, where sustainable tourism has had a tangible positive impact on the local environment and population. I was most surprised to find the room jam packed - I ended up sitting on the floor, along with many others - there must have been at least a hundred people attending, including many professionals of tourist boards and operators from around the world. Things will not change over night of course. But change is in the air. The number of small steps taken by many operators add up, and while we still have a long way to go, I believe we are headed in the right direction.

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If you haven't decided yet where to go this summer, you might want to consider a trip to magical Peru. Many Latin American countries experience a wet-season from May to December, but in Peru, although it is winter, it is the dry season, and is an excellent time to travel.

Naturalist Journey - Cloudforest to ManuOne of the most enigmatic and most biodiverse regions of Peru is the Cloudforest which, drapes the slopes of the eastern Andes. To fully appreciate the magic of this habitat, join one of our fixed departure naturalist journeys, which take 6 days to venture through the Cloudforest to Manu Wildlife Center, where the last 3 days of the trip are spent. This five-night program provides a complete overview of the habitats and wildlife of all elevations along the road-and-river route from Cusco to the Manu lowlands. Travel in an expedition bus down the orchid-festooned cloud forest road to Cock-of-the-Rock Lodge, which offers the world's finest viewing of these blazing scarlet birds. The following day, drive and boat to Pantiacolla Lodge in the foothills of the Andes. On day three, boat to Manu Wildlife Center and spend three nights there exploring the vast Manu lowlands. This trip, guided by expert naturalist guides, includes one visit each to the Macaw Clay Lick, the Tapir Clay Lick, a canopy platform, and a mature oxbow lake and much more. On the last day, you fly out to Cusco.

Jaguar spotting - Camping trips to Manu Biosphere ReserveOr, if you want to get really close to nature, join one of our Manu camping trips. Manu National Park was established in 1977 and in recognition of its uniqueness was designated a "World Heritage Site" ten years later. Manu is internationally acclaimed as one of the most biodiverse areas on earth. It is home to over 1000 species of birds, 15,000 species of plants, over 200 species of mammals, and untold numbers of insects, and within its heart remain yet uncontacted peoples. Wildlife aside, however, the journey into the park itself is spectacular and not to be missed. Access to Manu is normally by road. The two day trip from Cusco to the entrance of the Manu Reserved Zone carries you over the Andes mountains to an elevation of 4000 m, past pre-Inca ruins and down through the cloud forest on the eastern side of the Andes, and finally into lush, lowland rainforest. Roads remain largely unpaved and wind their way precariously past cascading waterfalls, deep gorges, and precipices. Manu is truly a complete experience. We offer several tours to Manu, but probably the most exciting, 'close to nature' experience can be had by joining one of the camping tours to Manu. These are small group, fixed departure trips into the reserved zone of Manu. 5, 7 and 9 day itineraries are available.

Or check out our other Peruvian Adventures

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Essential Oils - Scented Souls

alchemy (76K)In the last issues we discussed various fatty plant oils and their uses as well as resins, gums and latexes. In this issue I want to focus on essential oils. Unfortunately it would go far beyond the scope of this newsletter to discuss each and every essential oil - there are just too many of them and there are numerous decent books on the subject, which cover many oils in great detail. Instead, I will try to focus on the more general question - what are essential oils, methods of extraction, their uses and potential concerns.

What are Essential Oils?

Anybody who has ever stopped to take in the scent of a flower has experienced the effect of an essential oil. Essential oils are aromatic compounds, which not only occur in flowers, but also in leaves and roots. Note that essential oils from different parts of the same plant may have completely different scents and properties. Although known as 'oils' these compounds are chemically completely unrelated to fatty oils (such as olive oil etc.). Chemically they belong to the huge family of terpenes, which are ubiquitous in the plant world. Terpenes are very complex chemicals and some form enormously long chained molecules. Essential oils tend to consist of rather shorter sequences known as monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes or ring-like structures called 'benzene rings'.

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Plant Profile: Rose

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Rosa species


It is quite superfluous to provide a description of a plant that is so well known around the world. But for the sake of completion, I will offer these general notes:

There are about 150 species of wild roses, mostly shrubs and climbers, which occur wild in the northern hemisphere. Most wild rose species are distinguished by their 5-petaled white or pinkish flowers and the profusion of yellow stamen in their center. (Cultivated varieties can take on many different forms and colour variations - they may display large or small, packed or single flowers, scented or unscented, etc etc.) Wild Rose shrubs can be as low as 80cm or climb some 30m high by sprawling over other plants and trees. They are prickly fellows and although the thorns of natural varieties tend to be much finer than those of the hybrids, they are no less sharp or tenacious. Leaves tend to be pinnate, with stalked, ovate leaflets and finely toothed margins. The stems and leaves bear thorns In autumn they produce bright red, pear-shaped seed-pods with a hard, thin, outer skin. Their center is filled with small triangular seeds embedded in scratchy fluff (which children utilize as itching powder). These fruits are known as rosehips and famous as a rich source of vitamin C.


They may occur in open woodland, fields and heaths, or even on dunes and sandy ground. Their thorny nature offers effective protection for small animals, effectively warding off predators and human intrusion. They are often planted among the hedgerows, although the fruits don't seem to be the most favourite of wild fruit species, as they can often be seen adorning the bare bushes and glowing bright red long after other fruits have been decimated by the little creatures. However, their rich vitamin C content makes them popular with humans.

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Brunei Darussalam: Rainforest protection requires global effort

Source: Bru Direct, Brunei Darussalam, 22 March 2007
Kuala Belait - International cohesion is key to the protection and the guaranteed future of the rainforests of the world. This message was reflected in this year's World Forestry Day theme - Protecting the Forest: Our Responsibility - commemorated here yesterday with a series of activities. The finest strategies in countering rainforest exploitation will not assure the preservation of one of the nature's most valuable assets if the public does not join in conservation efforts, the participants to the commemoration were further told.

Brunei Darussalam kick started the commemoration of the World Forestry Day 2007 at the Forestry Department in Lumut yesterday. It is the 25th worldwide celebration of the annual event, according to Hj Saidin Salleh, Director, of Forestry Department. In his opening remarks, Hj Saidin mentioned the significance of the public's role as "imperative for us as global citizens to ensure the proper management of natural resources such as rainforests".

He also described the Forestry Department's strategic planning outline for the next-20-years in "non-timber product development such as ecotourism development, manufacturing herbal medicine and the perfumes derived from fragrant woods". The director made it a point to emphasise that such enterprises are more environmentally friendly and will not upset the fragile ecological balance of the rainforest.

The Minister of Industry & Primary Resources echoed the director's sentiments on the public's role in conserving the rainforest, "it is every individual's obligation to be responsible for taking care of the forest". He lamented that media reports of irresponsible and non-regulated logging still persist in spite of the fact that "the destruction of rainforests has been going on for hundreds of years to make more space for man".

The minister warned of the adverse consequences that will befall the world's rainforests if commercial logging goes unchecked. "According to the Global Forest Resources 2005 Report conducted by FAO, there is approximately 4 billion hectares of forest but the rate of extinction is about 13 million hectares a year ... if this continues the forests of the world will be completely gone in two or three centuries," he said.

The Minister told the Forestry Department that it "has to increase its efforts to maximise the use of the rainforest to improve the nation's economy without destabilising the ecological balance". He also spoke of the government's long-standing initiative to preserve Brunei's approach to rainforest conservation, "for one tree fell, we plant four". The minister then proceeded to officiate the site establishment of Brunei's very own Tropical Biodiversity Centre. --
Courtesy of The Brunei Times
For full story, please see:

TAKE ACTION: Last Chance to Stop Great Ugandan Mabira Rainforest Give-Away

Let the Ugandan Parliament know rainforests and their ecological services including water, climate and biodiversity are more important than sugar which can be grown elsewhere

By Rainforest Portal, a project of Ecological Internet, Inc.
March 28, 2007

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni continues to pursue legally dubious plans to destroy large areas of Uganda's last important intact and protected rainforests. Some one-third of Mabira Forest Reserve, about 7,000 hectares of an area which has been protected since 1932, will lose its protection for sugar cane production by the Mehta Group. Ecological Internet was the first to bring a thriving Ugandan rainforest protection and protest movement to an international audience. Since that time many more local and international groups have joined the campaign. Uganda has long been facing a deforestation crisis, with forests covering 20 percent of Uganda 40 years ago, but now just covering seven percent. Deforestation has been directly responsible for declining levels of waters in Lake Victoria, River Nile and other rivers resulting in a scarcity of drinking water and reduction in hydroelectric energy production.

Continued destruction of Uganda's surviving forests will have further grave ecological consequences -- threatening ecotourism revenues, rare species, sparking soil erosion and water pollution. Already the movement for sustainable rainforest use and development in Uganda has won. Maintaining and expanding rainforest protection has been established as a critical pillar of climate change mitigation, water availability and national ecological sustainability for Uganda's future. Please contact the entire Ugandan parliament, Ugandan ministries and embassies and insist that the Mabira sugar cane project be abandoned, and Uganda's remaining rainforest strictly protected. Take Action!


Farmers' organisations and NGO's mobilise against the European Patent Office in Munich, Germany Press statement, Munich, 26.3.2007

A new international coalition of farmers' unions, development and environmental NGOs today is calling for a global prohibition of patents on seeds and farm animals. Farmers increasingly become dependent on multinational corporations, which own patents on seeds and animals. The European Patent Office (EPO) has already granted hundreds of patents on genetically modified and as well as conventional, normal plants. Now the EPO is preparing a general approval of patents on conventional breeding methods and normal plants and animals. In Munich, the seat of the EPO, Misereor, Swissaid, the Declaration of Berne, No Patents on Life! and Greenpeace as well as the farmers' unions from Italy (Coldiretti), Argentina (Federación Agraria Argentina) and India (Bharat Krishak Samaj) today launch the GLOBAL APPEAL and a joint website against this fundamental decission by the EPO.

"Our animals and our seeds are the result of hundreds of years of breeding efforts by our farmers, and must not be patented," says Krishan Bir Chaudhary, Executive Chairman of the largest Indian farmers'organisation BKS -- Bharat Krishak Samaj, today in Munich. "The multinational companies expropriate farmers and want to bring everything, from the field to the consumer, under their own control."

The upcoming fundamental decission is a ruling by the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO which will decide on the validity of a patent on broccoli (EP 1069819 B1). The approval of this patent would mean that in future a mere genetic description of a plant or animal would be sufficient to receive a patent covering the plant or animal as well as methods for their production. The breeding of those plants and animals as well as their agricultural use could also be controlled by the patent holder. The decision of the EPO can be expected for this year. Would patents on conventional breeding methods of plants and animals be generally allowed, then legal challenges of individual patents would become ineffective.

"Validating the patent on the broccoli would mean a total and final sellout of living nature" says Christoph Then from Greenpeace. "Patent law is becoming an octopus crabbing the basis for our food production, plants and animals, to bring them under the control of a few multinational companies."

Next Wednesday representatives of the coalition will attend a public hearing of an appeal procedure at the EPO, concerning a patent on conventional sunflower seeds. On Thursday the alliance will also call upon an EU patent conference organised by the German Council Presidency in Berlin ( to protect European agriculture from further encroachments by patents.

Further farmers' organisations from Spain, Switzerland, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico and Brazil have already joined the Global Appeal.

Further information:

Dr. Christoph Then (Greenpeace), Tel. +49-171-8780832;
Tina Goethe (Swissaid), Tel. +41-76-5165957;
Mute Schimpf (Misereor), Tel. +49-172-1704891 and


A Global Appeal against patents on conventional seeds and farm animals

A joint Open Letter addressed to Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office, Government Representatives, The Executive Boards of Agrobusiness Companies

Keep out patents on conventional seeds and animals

For several years, patents on genetically modified seeds and animals have been granted worldwide. The damaging impacts on farmers, who are deprived of their rights to save their seeds, and on breeders who can no longer use the patented seeds freely for further breeding, are well known.

In Canada and the US, for example, the multinational seed company Monsanto has sued many farmers for alleged patent infringements. The same company has also filed court cases against importers of Argentinean soy to Europe. Furthermore, the possibility of patenting seeds has fostered a highly concentrated market structure with only 10 multinational companies controlling about half of the international seed market. Many farmers organisations and NGOs around the world are fighting against these patents. Because genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are still not grown in most countries, or only used in a small number of crops, the negative impacts of these patents are not being felt everywhere.

However, there is an alarming new trend for patents not only to be claimed on GMOs (such as Roundup Ready soybeans), but also on conventional plants. For example, patent claims have been made for soy beans with a better oil quality covering parts of the plant genome when used in conventional breeding and technologies to improve conventional breeding (such as marker assisted breeding).

Some of the most threatening examples in this context are patent applications from Syngenta which claim huge parts of the rice genome and its use in breeding of any food crops that have similar genomic information to rice (such as maize and wheat).

The European Patent Office has also granted a patent on aphid resistant composite plants which are based on marker assisted breeding. Other recent patent applications by Monsanto on pigs are also related to normal breeding methods, indicating the increasing danger of agricultural genetic resources becoming monopolised by a few multinationals on a global scale.

Soon the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office will decide on another patent of this kind -- for a method of increasing a specific compound in Brassica species.

This decision will determine the patentability of conventional seeds in Europe.

Whereas patents on conventional plant varieties are normal practice in the US, many other countries, especially developing countries, do not grant patents on plants or animals. But as the recent history shows, the standards defined and used at the European, Japanese and US patent offices influence international regulations (the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO). Patent offices all over the world are pushed to adapt their regulations and practices either through the international regulations or by bilateral agreements. India, for example, has just passed a third patent amendment in order to adapt its law to the TRIPS regulations.

This frightening new trend in patent policy will affect many more farmers and breeders, than has been the case with GMO patents. Any remaining farmers rights and breeders' access to plant varieties and animal breeds for breeding purposes, will disappear everywhere. These patents will destroy a system of farmers' rights and breeders' privileges that has been shown to be crucial for the survival of farmers and breeders, for food sovereignty, and for the preservation of biodiversity in agriculture. The vast majority of farmers in developing countries are small-scale farmers, completely reliant on saving and exchanging their seeds.

In order to secure the continued existence of independent farming, breeding and livestock keeping and hence the food security of future generations, we, the undersigned farmers, researchers, breeders and civil society organisations from all over the world, restate our rejection of any patents on life, and urge policy makers and patent offices to act swiftly to stop any patents being granted on conventionally bred plants and animals and on gene sequences for use with conventional breeding technique, as well as on methods for the conventional breeding of plants and animals. We also urge companies not to apply for any patents of this kind.

If your organisation wants to sign this Global Appeal, click here:

Further information and background materials are available at the campaign website.

Global standard set for wild medicinal plant harvesting

Source: Environment News Service, USA, 20 February 2007

NUREMBERG, Germany. A new standard to promote sustainable management and trade of wild medicinal and aromatic plants was launched Friday in Nuremberg at Biofach, the World Organic Trade Fair. The standard is needed to ensure plants used in medicine and cosmetics are not over-exploited. About 15,000 species, or 21 percent of all medicinal and aromatic plant species are at risk, according to the report by the Medicinal Plant Specialist Group of the IUCN's Species Survival Commission that sets forth the new standard. More than 400,000 metric tons of medicinal and aromatic plants are traded every year, and about 80 percent of these species are harvested from the wild. Almost 70,000 species are involved, many of them in danger of over-exploitation or extinction through over-harvesting and habitat loss. In India, for instance, 319 medicinal plants are listed as Threatened by IUCN-the World Conservation Union.

For full story, please see:

China seeks innovation in traditional medicine

[BEIJING] In an attempt to promote innovation in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), China has launched a long-term development plan to boost research in the field. The 15-year plan, launched this week (21 March), will establish a TCM-based system of disease prevention and clinical treatment, improve modern TCM manufacturing techniques and create a set of internationally recognisable TCM standards.

Peru creates online biodiversity register

Zoraida Portillo
22 March 2007

[LIMA] Peru has created an online system with full public access to regulate biodiversity research. The measure should ensure Peru's authority over its native genetic heritage, according to a press release from the National Institute for Natural Resources (INRENA), which will run the system.

The initiative was announced last week (16 March) in the El Peruano newspaper. Karina Ramírez, a biologist at INRENA's Department of Biodiversity Conservation, said INRENA is already working on implementing the system, which should be completely operational in two months. It includes a database showing in real time the national and international research being done with genetic resources native to Peru.
Now is the time for international action on patents:
Pressure is growing for a major shift in international intellectual property rules that addresses the interests of the poor.

Ecuador: Eco-tourism hope for Ecuador tribes

Source: BBC News, 20 February 2007
An indigenous tribe from one of the most remote parts of the Amazon rainforest is taking over a unique eco-tourism project as a way to protect their ancestral lands from oil extraction. The project in south-eastern Ecuador is being seen as a blueprint for other indigenous communities facing similar challenges around the world. One of those who hope to benefit from the venture is 20-year-old Angel Etsaa of the Achuar tribe. He has just become a guide at the Kapawi Eco-lodge. He earns $150 (£75) a month and wants to study management to help run the business in the future.

The commercial venture is being handed over piece-by-piece - by 2011, the Achuar people should be the sole owners. Political struggle: It is a 20-day walk from Kapawi to the nearest town. Its 20 cabins sit on stilts on a lagoon where special plants which prevent mosquito larva breeding in the water have been planted to make visits by tourists more enjoyable.

Sixty-five percent of the lodge's employees are from the Achuar tribe. The business is supporting a local economy in a community which is only just getting used to using money. But it is not just about providing work beyond living off the land. This place is the gateway to the Amazon Basin rainforest, one of the largest biodiversities anywhere in the world. The Achuar want to protect it along with their own culture. The lodge is financing the Achuar's political struggle. Money is given to the Nationality of Achuar Ecuador (NAE) federation. For full story, please see:

Sacred Earth Travel is proud to promote this community tourism project. For full program details please see: Kapawi Lodge


The USDA public comment deadline of March 30th regarding rice engineered with human genes is quickly approaching. The rice, developed by Ventria Bioscience has been given pre-approval by the USDA for planting and harvesting in California. The plants have been engineered to synthesize a human protein that would be used as a drug to treat diarrhea. When planted in an open environment, these biotech rice fields have the potential to contaminate conventional rice fields where the crops are being grown for consumer food products. According to Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "This is not a product that everyone would want to consume. It is unwise to produce drugs in plants outdoors." Learn more:


22 May 2007
Biodiversity and Climate Change: International Day for Biological Diversity
Source: Neil Pratt, UNEP,

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity is pleased to announce that the focus of the International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD), 22 May 2007, will be on biodiversity and climate change. This complements the designation of 2007 as the International Polar Year and coincides with UNEP's World Environment Day theme of Climate Change. Parties to the Convention are organizing a variety of events to commemorate the day including lectures, seminars, film presentations, cultural events, exhibitions and school outreach activities. Information on events to be organized, and some of the materials to help celebrate the day are available at:

22 May 2007
Climate Change and Biodiversity Have Their Day
Climate change touches the lives of people and biodiversity in every country.

For more information, please contact:

Neil Pratt
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
United Nations Environment Programme
413 Rue Saint-Jacques, Suite 800
Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2Y 1N9
Direct line: +1 514 287 7007
Reception: +1 514 288 2220
Mobile: +1 514 463 1424
e-mail :

April 15 - 22, 2007!
National Environmental Education Week,

Earth Day is coming up - Sign up now to participate in National Environmental Education Week, April 15 - 22, 2007! Now in its third consecutive year, National EE Week seeks to enhance the educational impact of Earth Day (April 22) and to recognize U.S. educators who are committed to implementing environmental education in their classrooms. National EE Week will involve thousands of educators and millions of students. It is coordinated by the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation (NEETF) in cooperation with hundreds of outstanding schools, environmental education organizations, education associations, and state and federal agencies.

April 14th, 2007

This April 14th, tens of thousands of Americans will gather all across the country at meaningful, iconic places to call for action on climate change. We will hike, bike, climb, walk, swim, kayak, canoe, or simply sit or stand with banners of our call to action: "Step It Up Congress! Cut carbon 80% by 2050." This is an invitation to help start a movement‹to take one spring day and use it to reshape the future.
Learn more:

March 29, 2007

Green Festivals, a joint project of Global Exchange and Co-op America, and widely known "party with a purpose," will touch down for two days in Chicago, April 21st and 22nd, 2007 at McCormick Place, bringing together more than 150 speakers, 300 local and national green businesses and an anticipated audience of more than 20,000.

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