Pat Roy Mooney
Pat Roy Mooney is one of a select group of heroes who devote their time and energy to the defense of plants. Plants are victims of a veritable holocaust being carried out by multi-national seed companies. This is a battle that affects us all, but few are even aware that plant biodiversity is a universal dilemma. (For background, see the My Secret Life As a Farmer, which appeared in an earlier paper Gazette.)
The excellent article below appeared in the Dec. 16, 1998 Ottawa Citizen.
Biodiversity ‘crackpot’ wins Pearson medal: Activist wages war against ‘life patents’
By Andrew Duffy
The Pearson Peace Medal was awarded yesterday to Pat Roy Mooney, an expert on plant genetics who has led an international campaign against patents on living organisms.
Mr. Mooney, 51, a legally blind high school dropout, used to be called a crackpot as he battled large seed companies determined to promote the use of their genetically altered plant varieties around the world. But yesterday, Gov. Gen. Romeo LeBlanc lauded him as a visionary who recognized the dangers of agricultural technology long before most of the world. “He raised the alarm and he created a higher public consciousness of the threats to biodiversity,” Mr. LeBlanc said. “His achievements show us the impact that one person can have when he cares deeply about an issue: He has raised the chances of the world having a secure supply of food and he has raised the chance for peace.”
It’s estimated that 75 per cent of genetic diversity in the world’s 20 key food crops have been lost. Most of that diversity — important to ensuring that crops survive in changing conditions — has been lost in the past 50 years as genetically altered, high-yield crops have been introduced around the world…
Mr. Mooney is now executive director of the Rural Advancement Foundation International, which has offices in Ottawa and Winnipeg…Mooney’s Rural Advancement Foundation has successfully fought against three patents taken out on human cell lines–copies of human cells reproduced in a lab–by the U.S. government.
The patents allowed the U.S. Department of Commerce to charge a $136 fee to anyone wanting to use the cells in an experiment. The cells came from the human tissue of indigenous people in Guaymi, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Mooney’s group has taken patent fights to the United Nations and to international courts. It’s his proudest achievement, he said, that the campaign has gone mainstream. “There are hundreds of groups out there doing this work now. And I can see a point down the road where we’re going to turn this stuff around: I think the momentum is building up so that the patenting of life will become a very hot topic around the world and we’re going to find companies back pedaling.”