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Beyond Borders (www.worldbeyondborders.org).
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Volume 2, Issue 10
October 4, 2004

1. Quote of the Month
2. What's New at World Beyond Borders
3. Nations and Biodiversity
4. Reader Letters
5. What You Can Do


"Brazil says "sovereign use of Natural Resources" Thirty thousand kinds of unknown plants. The living actual people of the jungle sold and tortured- And a robot in a suit who peddles a delusion called "Brazil" can speak for them?" --Gary Snyder, from "Mother Earth: Her Whales"


This month, we have two new articles.

Why Global Government?
*"The Roots of Terrorism in "Sovereign" Nation-States and the Path to a Secure World Order" by Dr. Glen T. Martin links terrorism to national sovereignty and proposes the Constitution for the Federation of Earth as a solution.

How Might We Get There?
*"Critical Thinking and Mind Control" by K. Titchenell looks at a major obstacle to peace -- lack of critical thinking.

Please send article ideas or submissions to Jane Shevtsov,

by Jane Shevtsov

In 1969, a scientist went on vacation with his wife in Norway. When they stopped to look at a particularly gorgeous view, he collected a soil sample. When screened, the sample turned out to contain a microscopic fungus that made a compound that could suppress the human immune system. The compound, named cyclosporin A, has allowed organ transplants to become routine. It has saved thousands of lives. But could it have been discovered today?

The fungus that produces cyclosporin is one of 3 to 30 million species of life on planet Earth. Each one has a unique evolutionary history and is adapted to a particular way of life. This diversity provides humans with food and medicine. Intact ecosystems, which partly depend on diverse species, provide other services that range from oxygen to clean water to spiritual experience. At the same time, species are currently going extinct at a rate higher than any seen since the mass extinction that ended the age of the dinosaurs.

The 1993 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a response to this crisis. It was designed to protect and promote the sustainable use of biodiversity. However, according to a Science News article, the CBD "essentially nationalize[s]" biological resources. Under one of its provisions, a person or company that wants to collect promising material from a foreign country must fill out paperwork and, if a product comes to market, share profits with the country from which the organism was collected. This seems fair, and will not deter large, specific research programs. However, it may well eliminate many serendipitous discoveries, like that of cyclosporin. In addition, the CBD has made some countries reluctant to share agricultural seeds stored in seed banks.

This unintended consequence is addressed by the new International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Half of the world's food supply comes from only three crops -- wheat, rice and corn (maize). Thousands of kinds of these and other crops exist around the world. They are adapted to specific conditions and often contain genes for resistance to various pathogens. However, this diversity is quickly being lost as commercial seeds gain in popularity. Traditional varieties are preserved in seed libraries -- "gene banks" -- waiting for the day when they are needed.

The new treaty, ratified by 55 nations (not including the US), covers 35 crops and 29 plants used for animal feed. It promotes seed collection and exchange among gene banks. If seeds are used to develop new commercial varieties, companies must pay a fee -- not to the nation from which the seeds came but to a global fund.

This represents a hopeful shift in our thinking about biodiversity. Surely, a country with a 500 year history can't own a plant with a 5 million year history. If the new treaty works, we may consider extending it to other species. In the end, biological resources must be shared freely by the human race.

For more information:
*Biodiversity and Conservation, Hanne Svarstad, Hans Chr. Bugge, Shivcharn S. Dhillion, "From Norway to Novartis: cyclosporin from Tolypocladium inflatum in an open access bioprospecting regime", Volume 9, Issue 11, (Pages 1521-1541) November 2000,
http://www.kluweronline.com/article.asp?PIPS=262263&PDF=1 (subscription unfortunately required)

*Convention on Biological Diversity, "Sustaining Life on Earth", http://www.biodiv.org/doc/publications/guide.asp

*Science News, Janet Raloff, "The Ultimate Crop Insurance", September 11, 2004, http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040911/bob10.asp

*The Scientist, Charles Q. Choi, "Crop biodiversity treaty OK'd", April 14, 2004, http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040414/03


When the first reader letter was published last month, Mike Schwager of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA asked an important question. "Thanks for publishing my "reflection" in your World Beyond Borders newsletter. But I'm wondering why you didn't include my e-mail address. You state in the newsletter: "We encourage you to express your thoughts and communicate with each other." How would people be able to do the latter without referencing their e-mail addresses?"

The letters column itself can serve as a forum for discussion. We also have a bulletin board (look under "Interactive Activities and Communication") that we hope to improve soon. However, if you really want us to publish your email address and don't mind the spam risk, just say so when you write.

Our article about the Olympics brought in several responses. Denis Titchenell in Altadena, California, USA writes, "Your thoughts on the olympics are right on! I've thought for ages that international teams would be ideal. It should also be possible for athletes to compete as unaffiliated individuals under a UN or global flag. If only some country in the world somewhere would offer honorary status to athletes from anywhere to compete under their banner -- The Gambia, Liechtenstein, Sealand, it would free participants from the nationalistic associations that are imposed upon them. I think that's really a project worth pursuing."

Barbara Wetzel of Littleton, Colorado, USA, sent us some of her thoughts on the Olympics. "Thanks for your efforts and including my article. I too watched an amazing amount of the Olympics. The things that caught your attention caught mine too. I was also deeply disappointed in the Greeks booing and whistling during our American racers event. I also, while agreeing that the athlete in the best of the high bar gymnastics deserved at least nines from every judge and much better than he received, the Greeks were totally unfair to the next gymnasts who had to follow and were delayed so long. When I was talking to the man from Turkey, he said that he and his country hated the Christians fighting against them in Cyprus and when I was watching the games, the Greeks booed the Turks as they entered the arena, because they hate them for fighting them in Cyprus. The Turks feel that the Ottoman Empire had done so much for the Greeks and they are very ungrateful for not appreciating that!

I think that it is quite interesting to get all the sides of the story. I also asked my South Korean neighbors who came to Littleton right after the games, "Are you glad the teams entered together and will you be glad if they join as one team next time." He answered, "Not until the north gives up its nuclear policy." I asked him if he was glad that Bush was talking about taking our troops out of Korea and other countries and he said he was glad that Washington was talking so tough to countries like Iran and North Korea, because he hoped that what happened in Libya, will eventually happen in these two countries. Nothing is as simple as it looks, but I too would like to see the world flag carried in before the games and that the sport is enjoyed as the best each person and team can bring.

"You may have missed it but both the president of the Olympic committee and the Greek woman who brought the Olympics to Greece thanked President Bush for his hard stand on clean (drug free) sports in his inaugural address. They felt that this lead to the cleanest games in recent history, and of course she was sad to see two of Greece's shinning stars fail their tests or drop out because they knew they would, and is why the Greeks booed our racers in the event their star would have been in."

Please send letters to news@worldbeyondborders.org. We may edit the letter for clarity and length.


*If you live in the US, write your senators about ratifying the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

*Forward this newsletter far and wide, particularly to environmentalist friends.

We want your stories! Email Jane Shevtsov at

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