[ASC-media] Australian geneticist makes Sci Am top 50

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com
Thu Nov 27 12:45:04 EST 2003

Misuse of intellectual property rights is crippling biotechnology

Open source genetics needed to feed the world, says Scientific American top
50 leader

Thursday 27 November 2003

Australian geneticist Richard Jefferson is calling on the global
biotechnology community to adopt open access genetics - freeing up the tools
of modern genetics and biology from the shackles of excessive patenting.

In Australia Jefferson may be a quiet achiever, but internationally he's in
demand. This week he was recognised as one of the top 50 technology leaders
of 2003 by Scientific American, the prestigious science magazine.  

According to Scientific American, "The Green Revolution-the steady increase
in crop yields that started in the 1960s-is starting to bump up against
limitations of land use, water supply, pest control and existing plant
genetic variety. Biotechnology may be able to help, but so far it has pretty
much passed the developing world by. Few have done more to change that than
Richard Jefferson."

Richard Jefferson founded CAMBIA, the Center for the Application of
Molecular Biology to International Agriculture, in Canberra in 1991. CAMBIA
employs 40 scientists and is a Charles Sturt University affiliated research

Jefferson credits the extraordinary quality of the international staff at
CAMBIA for this recognition. "The vision, creativity and hard work of the
many individuals who have strived to make CAMBIA a success have really
earned this recognition for our efforts".

Jefferson is a Schwab Foundation Outstanding Social Entrepreneur.  He was
invited to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, and
has been invited back in 2004, where key aspects of CAMBIA's new Open Access
program, called BIOS, will be announced. He works with The Rockefeller
Foundation; The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); The World
Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO); CGIAR; and many others.

To quote Wired Magazine, where CAMBIA "a force in agricultural technology'
and Jefferson's ideas feature prominently in the November issue -
intellectual property is "a legal regime that has become so stifling and
restrictive that thousands of free-thinking programmers, scientists,
designers, engineers, and scholars are desperate to find new ways to

Jefferson says, "The real issue is the contribution that wise use of
biotechnology can make to global health and nutrition- if we free up access
to the tools for the people who really need them."

"Inadequate nutrition is responsible for more than eighty percent of global
health problems," he says, "and yet astoundingly, most dialogs about health
only discuss infectious disease".

"While in the West, children are suffering the consequences of
over-consumption, in developing countries children are not getting enough
nutrition to allow their brains and bones to develop properly. Millions of
children are starving, or will never reach their human potential." 

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's annual report, "The
State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003" released today, latest estimates
signal a setback in the war against hunger.

"Food aid is only a short term fix. Developing countries need food and crop
security. Our teams want to give them the tools to create their own cropping
systems suited to their environment their societies and their economies." 

"CAMBIA's tools will also assist farmers and biotech companies in the West -
freeing farmers from an excessive dependence on a small number of giant
agribusiness companies, and stimulating the formation of myriad smaller
biotechnology companies that can focus on results rather than trying to lock
up technology with intellectual property." 

Contact Richard Jefferson on +61 2 6246 4502, +61 419 499753 or
r.jefferson at cambia.org

Photos and background information available at www.scienceinpublic.com 

CAMBIA is the Center for the Application of Molecular Biology to
International Agriculture 

Niall Byrne

Science Communication Consultant
PO Box 199 Drysdale 3222 Australia
(185 Scotchmans Road Portarlington 3223)
Ph +61 3 5253 1391, fax +61 3 9923 6008, mobile 0417 131 977
niall at scienceinpublic.com, www.scienceinpublic.com
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