Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Horse here, horse there, equine poo everywhere?

My blogging bosom buddy Howsy sent me an article written by the world’s most famous SIL in his most favourite newspaper, who reciprocally considers him its most favourite pinup wonder boy.

SIL expounded on the effects of the US-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on Malaysians.

Much to my surprise I found myself agreeing with him on … well … most things except the part where he spoiled it with a bit of official propaganda which no non-UMNO Malaysian (even MCA, Gerakan, MIC) would believe. He started off by saying:

"2007 has been set up as a splendid celebration of half a century of nationhood and sovereignty, with Malaysia emerging as a successful, modern democracy that has succeeded in avoiding any encumbrances by over-dependence on other nations, especially those which wield considerable strategic strength."

“… emerging as a successful, modern democracy …”?

Well …..… anyway, then,

“…avoiding any encumbrances by over-dependence on other nations …”?

Hmmm, remember my worries about the Trojan Horse …… but WTF, nobody cares about Greek mythology. Besides, I may well end up like Laocoon who tried in vain to warn the Malaysi ... Trojans:

Do not trust the Horse, Trojans
Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts

OK, forget his brains baffling bull for Daddy. One item that struck my attention was his correct identification of an important issue that might have escaped many’s attention. He wrote:

"The patent provisions will also mean that US drug companies will be able to establish property ownership on plants indigenous to Malaysia that we have used in alternative medicine. This may eventually mean that our farmers have to pay a US drug firm for even the right to cultivate these plants … ".

Akin to this ridiculous US-centric patenting has been the patenting of DNA sequencing etc which then requires licence fees from medical tests using the patented mapping of the DNA-whatever.

I won't try to explain this mind boggling medical stuff. It's way over my head other than one bit I learnt from a doctor - that DNA sequencing can be used in medicine to identify, diagnose and even develop treatments for genetic diseases.

The only DNA I know has been DiaNA who used to take me around on her Vespa. She's a bit of a road hog and frequently terrified me with her speeding that I was forced to cling on very tightly ... er ... with my arms around her wonderful willowy waist. Yes, I know nuts about DNA sequencing but alas, I have to confess I had terrifying experiences with DiaNA squeezing.

Anyway, back on track - many international medical companies are rebelling against this 'first in best dressed' patenting system (first to map the DNA sequencing puts in a patent and gets all the lollies).

The argument against patenting of the mapping of human genes or those of plants (the latter of which Australia is also doing) etc has been that the patenting should only apply to human ‘inventions', and not something that nature has provided. Mapping the DNA, geromes or whatever is not an 'invention'.

To cut the discussion short (actually to accommodate my own limited understanding more than anything), countries like Canada and France are saying "enough is enough – you Yanks haven’t discovered anything, you just patented something that nature had already blueprinted, so bugger off, we ain't gonna pay".

This is apart from an ugly (typically Bush) incident just post 9/11 where the USA showed its Big Power arrogance and total disregard for the patents of other nations. When there was an anthrax scare in the States and the Administration was desperately looking for the remedy, it discovered that the drug was patented by the Germans.

President Bush told the Germans to give the production rights to the States for free (or perhaps at a wee fraction of the cost) or the USA would just take over as it pleased.

Compare this arrogant piracy with its selfish inhumane refusal for years to allow poor-suffering nations like (black) South Africa and many African nations to produce a cheaper version (lower licence fees) of the drugs for HIV-AIDS.

I dion't know how true this is, but I heard that even Thailand has gone down that avenue with the cheaper production of the drug (obviously by ignoring fees to the patent holders).

So the above is just an example of how the FTA will benefit the USA rather than Malaysia.

Maybe that’s why the Americans have been so keen, anxious and urging of our government to sign up. Maybe they are the ones offering a Trojan Horse too?

Can we cope with so many equine intrusion, bearing in mind horses would poo everywhere?

The other point we are dying to ask is of course, 'did SIL's article signal Malaysia having second thoughts about signing up an agreement that will principally advantage the USA?'


  1. DNA sequencing is not patented but DNA photocopying or Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is.

  2. I'm a biotech student, so here's my 2 cents. I'm quite busy to look things up now, but here's what I can remember from the top of my head.

    US patenting of genes is indeed widely being opposed now, even within US themselves by their citizens. Eg. patients who provided their genes for research to drug companies now have to pay exorbitant prices for drugs, and they can't offer their genes to others for research cos it's "patented".

    I believe in current biotech conventions etc, they're discussing framework of managing patenting a R&R product vs and it's source. Eg, tongkat ali planted here suddenly developed into an anti-cancer drug. How the locals should be given certain benefits/exemptions etc for providing the raw materials/source for the product.

    Till then, that's the unfair truth we've to deal with. Which is why M'sia and many 3rd world are developing their biotech sector to prevent others from swooping in and exploiting their products. Especially in Asia where we have such rich biodiversity, with so many undiscovered possibilites.

  3. Ktemoc,
    So I guess no FTA is better for us? CAP and few others NGO are supporting you then ;)
    Actually I wonder who need FTA more? Malaysia or US? We asked for it or was it US who beg to us?

  4. ktemoc,
    no good no good. Bakri Musa strike KJ merciless in his article in Malaysia-today ler. Your patent case also included...

  5. mich

    I'll comment on Bakri Musa's article in a blog. Thanks for the headsup