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Drafts of a New U.N. with Michael Intelligence

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    ISIS-SGR-TWN Discussion PaperTowards A Convention on Knowledge Draft 7Mae-Wan Ho* Institute of Science in SocietyEva Novotny Philip Webber Scientists
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 31, 2003
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      ISIS-SGR-TWN Discussion Paper

      A Convention on Knowledge
      Draft 7

      Mae-Wan Ho*
      Institute of Science in Society

      Eva Novotny
      Philip Webber
      Scientists for Global Responsibility

      E.E. Daniels
      Science for Peace

      Philip Webber, Vice Chair of SGR writes:
      In the run-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD),
      Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) wants to help initiate a
      wide-ranging discussion on how science and knowledge should be
      developed and used. For the purpose, we are circulating this paper,
      originally drafted by Mae Wan Ho, which now reflects contributions
      from many sources and individuals.
      We recognise that it will not be possible to reach a complete
      consensus on what a final document should say, but we welcome
      comments and suggestions.
      We are asking people of all backgrounds and affiliations to express
      support for this draft Convention that also serves as a catalyst for
      linking up everyday lives and concerns with western science and
      indigenous knowledge.
      Delegates in our networks attending the WSSD may find this document
      useful. After the WSSD, we hope that the draft Convention will
      continue to act as a touchstone for debate and discussion, to promote
      a world culture in which knowledge and its fruits are available to

      This Document is posted on the websites of ISIS, SGR and TWN Please e-
      mail us to express your support.

      You can also sign on at the ISIS website directly.

      What Does A "Convention" Imply?
      Why `Knowledge'?
      Why We Need It
      Proposed Elements for A `Convention on Knowledge'
      Background Considerations
      The predominant model has failed
      Science, ethics and precaution
      Corporate science endangers lives
      Independent science and scientists becoming extinct
      Destruction of indigenous knowledge
      Globalisation and biopiracy
      Mechanistic science and big business share the same ideology
      Holistic, organic sciences emerging
      The Way Forward
      Working science partnerships
      Science and technologies that should be supported
      Ecology & energy use in sustainable systems
      Science of the organism and holistic health
      Criteria of appropriate technologies
      1. Technologies that should be banned
      2. Technologies that should be phased out
      3. Technologies that should be subject to
      international peaceful control
      4. Research that should be discontinued.

      This draft has taken into account comments from Peter Saunders, Dept.
      of Mathematics, King's College, London); Stuart Parkinson, Jan Tari,
      Vanessa Spedding and Alan Cottey Scientists for Social
      Responsibility, UK; Devinder Sharma, Food analyst and journalist,
      India; Brian Goodwin, Schumacher College, Totnes, UK; Gurdial Singh,
      Lim Li Lin and Martin Khor, Third World Network, Penang; Aurelio
      Virgilio Veiga Rios, Public Prosecutor, Federal Prosecuter Office,
      Brasilia, Brazil; Lim Li Ching, ISIS; Joe Cummins, Dept. of Plant
      Genetics, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada; Hur Sang-
      Soo, Centre of Culture and Information Studies Sungkonghoe
      University, Seoul, South Korea; Antonino Drago, Scientific Committee
      of the Inter-University Center of Bioethics Research (CIRB), Naples,
      Italy; Margaret Jackson, National Genetics Awareness Alliance,
      Australia; Hira Jhamtani, KONPHALINDO, Jakarta, Indonesia; Elizabeth
      Cullen, Irish Doctors Environmental Association, Ireland; and P.N.
      Furbank, Emeritus Professor of English, Open University, UK.

      Detailed Comments to:
      Patrick Nicholson, SGR, PO Box 473, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 1GS, UK, e-
      mail: PatrickN@...

      Institute of Science in Society, ISIS:
      Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, PO Box 32097, London, NW1 0XR, UK, e-mail: m.w.ho@I-
      Scientists for Global Responsibility, SGR:
      Dr. Phil Webber, PO Box 473, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 1GS, UK. Email:
      Third World Network, TWN:
      Mr. Martin Khor, 228 Macalister road, 10400 Penang, Malyasia, e-mail:

      What Does A "Convention" Imply?
      "Convention" is to be taken in the most general sense of a `coming
      together'. It is the coming together both of civil society and of
      issues on knowledge that will have major impacts on the agenda for
      global sustainability.
      This "Convention" is intended solely as a civil society
      document, with no legal binding status. It expresses a commitment of
      civil society to develop and use knowledge for the good of all.

      Why `Knowledge'?
      `Knowledge' is to read in the widest sense to include all knowledge
      systems that exist in the world today, to underscore the holistic
      nature of knowledge systems and their independent and equal status.
      Thus, `knowledge' in the west will include science and other ways of
      knowing, whereas for indigenous communities, `knowledge' might be
      synonymous with `indigenous science'.
      Focusing on knowledge also stresses the important point that
      knowledge is not independent of technology, or the application of
      science. Knowledge inspires and guides and misguides technology. This
      is as true for western science as it is for holistic indigenous
      knowledge systems.

      Why We Need It
      Developments since September 11 have brought biological weapons and
      nuclear weapons back on the global agenda, raising real prospects of
      the misuse of science and scientists to military ends.
      At the same time, the US and UK governments are
      introducing `emergency' legislation and measures that pose further
      threats to the free exchange of scientific information and knowledge,
      already compromised by the rampant commercialisation of science in
      recent years.
      The commercialisation of science and the increasing intimate
      relationship between universities and industry have undermined public
      trust in science and scientists. More seriously, independent science
      and scientists working for the public good are becoming things of the
      past. This is coming at a time when technologies are getting more
      powerful and uncontrollable, both as weapons of mass destruction and
      in terms of destroying the social and moral fabric of human societies.
      The new trade-related intellectual properties regime in
      industrialised nations is an unprecedented privatisation of
      knowledge, which has also encouraged the biopiracy of indigenous
      knowledge and resources on a global scale. This regime is being
      imposed on the rest of the world through the World Trade
      Organisation, as part of a relentless drive towards economic
      Economic globalisation is widely acknowledged to be the major cause
      of poverty, social disintegration and environmental degradation over
      the past decades. At the same time, it is obstructing any attempt to
      reverse the trends and to implement a global agenda for
      Fifty thousand gathered in Porto Alegre in February at the Second
      World Social Forum to voice unanimous opposition to economic
      globalisation and to call for alternative models of world governance
      and finance.
      Almost no one is targeting the predominant, reductionist knowledge
      system of the west, that has provided the intellectual impetus for
      globalisation as well as the instruments of destruction and
      oppression. It has also marginalised indigenous knowledge systems and
      driven countless of these to extinction.
      But western science itself is undergoing a profound paradigm change
      towards an organic perspective that has deep affinities with
      indigenous knowledge systems around the world. We have all the means
      to bring a truly sustainable and equitable world into being, only the
      political will is missing. We need a collective vision that could
      underpin a new model of world governance and finance. Towards that
      end, we have drafted some elements towards a `convention on
      knowledge' that could also serve as the focus of a concerted campaign
      to reclaim all knowledge systems to the service of public good.

      Proposed Elements for A `Convention on Knowledge'
      `Knowledge' is to be understood in the most general sense that
      includes science and all other disciplines in the west, as well as
      holistic, indigenous knowledge of diverse communities around the
      1. Knowledge must not be used for destructive, oppressive or
      aggressive military ends. Scientists must take moral responsibility
      for their own research, to desist from research that is harmful or
      that serves destructive, oppressive or aggressive military ends.
      2. Knowledge belongs to the community and cannot be privately owned
      or controlled. We reject all privatisation of knowledge, and
      enclosure of databases by private companies. We reject patents on
      living organisms and their parts, and patents based on plagiarism of
      knowledge belonging to indigenous communities. We reject monopolistic
      patents on essential medicines and other knowledge that generate
      excessive profits for corporations.
      3. Knowledge is diverse, inclusive and pluralistic; and no one
      knowledge system should predominate over the others so long as they
      satisfy the other elements in this convention. Indigenous knowledge
      systems must be protected and allowed to thrive. Cross-fertilisations
      and partnerships between different knowledge systems and practices
      should be promoted towards improving sustainability and equity.
      4. Knowledge should enable us to live sustainably with nature. It
      should be ecologically accountable. Its research and practice are
      fully in line with the precautionary principle.
      5. Knowledge should be open and accessible to all. It must be
      truthful and reliable. Disagreements must be openly debated in terms
      that all people can understand. People must be consulted and
      participate in making decisions at every stage, from research and
      development to the introduction of new technologies into the
      6. Knowledge should serve public interest, not the agenda of
      corporations. It must be independent of commercial interests and of
      government control. Public funds should be allocated primarily to
      research that benefits society as a whole.
      7. Knowledge should make the world equitable and life-enhancing for
      all its inhabitants. It should address people's emotional and
      spiritual as well as physical needs. It gives meaning and value to
      their way of life, and in that sense is profoundly holistic. Its
      first aim is to do no harm, to human beings and to other species. It
      must respect basic human rights and dignity.

      Background Considerations
      The predominant model has failed
      The advancement of science - the predominant knowledge system of the
      West - has been linked historically with progress and civilisation,
      and general improvement of the lives of the masses, at least up to
      the beginning of the twentieth century. World War II and the atom
      bomb shocked the world into recognising that science and technology
      can be instruments of mass destruction. Still, the idea lingered that
      science is beyond reproach, and it is technology that has to be
      controlled. And so the atom bomb, explosives and nerve gases were
      turned into nuclear reactors, fertilisers and pesticides
      respectively, all regarded as beneficial peacetime uses. Rachel
      Carson's Silent Spring sounded the first warnings that the earth and
      all its inhabitants were being poisoned, and will be, for decades to
      come, unless those uses were discontinued.

      Science, ethics and precaution
      But the scientific experts consulted by successive governments
      insisted "there is no evidence of harm", and continued to set
      permissive standards for corporations to pollute our life-support
      system with impunity. Holes developed in the ozone layer, and global
      warming was fast proceeding towards the point of no return.
      One thousand six hundred scientists eventually sounded their
      dire "Warning to Humanity" after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de
      Janeiro. Human beings and the natural world are on a collision
      course, they said. The sum of our human impacts is considerably
      larger than the impact of all the other species on it, and we are
      already affecting the global ecosystem in terms of the oceans, the
      global mean temperature and chemical balance. The developed nations
      are the largest polluters, and must "greatly reduce their over-
      consumption". Developing nations, on the other hand, will
      be "overwhelmed if their populations go unchecked". They called
      for "a new ethic", "a new attitude towards discharging our
      responsibility for caring for ourselves and for the earth".
      But the scientists did not seem to see that science too, had to have
      a new ethic. The predominant attitude among scientists is that
      science is ethically neutral. So they keep bringing more powerful and
      uncontrollable means of destruction to the fray.
      Since the anthrax attacks in the United States, there is a growing
      realisation that genetic engineering and biological weapons may be
      worse than nuclear weapons. Furthermore, together with the new
      reproductive technologies, genetic engineering could place both
      production (of food and commodities) and human reproduction under
      corporate control, subject to global market forces. Market dictates
      have seduced our scientists to turn life into commodities, still
      under the delusion that all scientific research is desirable and
      ethically neutral.
      Living organisms, cell lines and genes are being patented, including
      those from human beings. Databases of genomes and genes, as well as
      archives of scientific publications, have come under corporate
      ownership. Scientists are busy patenting discoveries made at public
      expense, plagiarising knowledge and stealing genetic resources from
      indigenous communities, including the cell lines and genes of
      indigenous peoples.

      Corporate science endangers lives
      For nearly a century, funding for scientific research has been
      dominated by military interests, and increasingly, by the interests
      of industry. Since the 1980s, biotechnology has forged a new
      partnership between the public and the private that has led to the
      commercialisation of science and the corruption of all the
      traditional ideals of science.
      The commercialisation of science has reached crisis proportions in
      the new biotechnology `goldrush'. Top scientists take money to have
      their names appear on scientific papers ghost written by drug
      companies. Biomedical researchers have been caught peddling
      fraudulent cures and even killing patients while profiting from stock-
      market hype of spin-off companies created at public expense.
      In 2001, British physicians proposed a national panel to investigate
      misconduct in biomedical research, and the top biomedical journals
      joined up to insist on scientific independence. Some journals have
      proposed a signed declaration that the papers submitted by scientists
      are their own.
      An editorial in The Lancet sums up the situation,
      "Governments, nationally and regionally, have consistently failed to
      put their people before profit. By contrast, academic institutions
      could intervene to support scientists when financial conflicts
      threaten to do harm. But these institutions have become businesses in
      their own right, seeking to commercialise for themselves research
      discoveries rather than preserve their independent scholarly status."

      Independent science and scientists becoming extinct
      Meanwhile, independent science and scientists are being driven to
      extinction. Instead of protecting the endangered species and
      fostering open debate on matters ranging from declining academic
      standards to the safety to GM foods and medicine, academic
      institutions are actively persecuting independent scientists who try
      to tell the truth.
      Our public finance is being diverted to support research that
      benefits the corporations at the expense of public good, while
      promising approaches are receiving little or no funding.
      The crisis in science is having serious repercussions. As
      technologies are becoming more powerful and uncontrollable, we need
      scientists to acknowledge their responsibility to society, we need
      scientists who can warn us of the dangers, to solve existing problems
      and to help create another sustainable world.

      Destruction of indigenous knowledge
      All over the world, indigenous peoples have been suffering from the
      dominant knowledge system of the west. People were forced to change
      their traditions for Western models. Not only do the new,
      inappropriate practices lead to poverty, they also destroy the
      environment and undermine the health of human beings. Modern
      monoculture techniques have, in many places, led to lower yields and
      nutritional deficiencies, turning formerly productive land into
      Fortunately, things have been changing since the 1980s. All across
      Asia, Africa and Latin America, people are rediscovering and
      reinstating traditional farming methods and crop varieties, improving
      productivity and regenerating the land. Along the edges of the
      Sahara, in Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Kenya, African
      farmers are working miracles, pushing back the desert, and turning
      the hills green, not by using genetic engineering, or any western aid
      programme. But simply by integrating crops and livestock to enhance
      nutrient recycling, by mix-cropping to increase system diversity, and
      reintroducing traditional water-conservation methods to overcome
      drought. Yields of many crops have tripled and doubled, keeping well
      ahead of population increases.

      Globalisation and biopiracy
      Oronto Douglas (Environmental Rights Action) from Nigeria points out
      that globalisation is nothing new. The first wave of globalisation
      was slavery. With the rise of eugenic ideas in Europe and America,
      slaves and indigenous peoples were considered sub-human. This served
      to justify genocide and destruction of indigenous cultures
      everywhere. The second wave of globalisation was the invasion of
      indigenous homelands by oil, mining and timber companies, which led
      to massive destruction of life-support systems. Twenty thousand
      Ogonies were killed after peaceful, non-violent demonstrations
      against the Shell oil company. The third current wave of
      globalisation will deprive indigenous peoples of the last shreds of
      self-determination and livelihood.
      At the end of 2001, shamans from 20 indigenous groups in Brazil
      gathered to denounce biopiracy and demand equal status for indigenous
      knowledge. The Brazilian government estimates that 97% of the 4000
      patents taken out on natural products in the country between 1995 and
      2000 were by foreigners. Biopiracy is rampant, taking advantage of
      weak laws, hiding behind the mask of `scientific cooperation'
      and `ecotourism'.
      In February, 2002, twelve countries - Mexico, China, Brazil, India,
      Indonesia, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Kenya, Peru, Venezuela, and
      South Africa - formed an historic alliance in Cancun, Mexico, to
      fight biopiracy and to press for rules protecting indigenous genetic
      resources. Between them they possess 70 percent of the world's
      biodiversity, and many centres of diversity for the world's food
      Maize originated in Mexico 4,000 years ago. Recently, Mexican farmers
      were dismayed to find their indigenous landraces widely contaminated
      by genetically modified corn. They were even more outraged to hear
      that companies might want to charge them for using the contaminated
      strains as they now contain patented transgenes.
      Another imminent danger is the flood of rice gene patents that may
      affect farmers' rights to use and sell existing varieties or to
      develop new ones, now that the rice genome has been sequenced.
      China's Beijing Genome Institute has scored an impressive victory for
      the developing countries by joining the sequencing race late and
      coming out ahead. The Beijing Genome Institute has deposited the rice
      genome sequence in the public database, while Syngenta is hording its
      data on its own website. This has dramatically changed the power
      politics of agriculture, hitherto under the predominant control of
      the rich developed world. It remains to be seen, however, whether
      China can put a stop to the rampant gene-patenting that has occurred
      when the human genome sequence was announced in 2001.

      Mechanistic science and big business share the same ideology
      The increasingly intimate alliance between science and big business
      has deep roots. The predominant framework of western science is
      mechanistic and reductionist. The machine metaphor in biology dates
      back to Descartes' concept of the body as machine, separate from
      mind. Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection proposed that
      species evolve and improve over time due to the all-pervasive
      competition of one against all and all against nature. Darwin was
      inspired by the laissez-faire economic theory of Adam Smith, in which
      competition and the `free' market – expanding under the military
      might of the British Empire - was seen to be the key to economic
      success. Darwinism, and neo-Darwinism, in turn inspired the present
      day neo-liberal economic theory, a more extreme version of Adam
      Smith's, as it involves unfettered competition, not tempered by moral
      The system of economic regulation and agreements set up after
      the second world war allow companies to operate without
      responsibility or accountability. This same ideology is currently
      driving economic globalisation that will have devastating
      consequences on the livelihood of the poorest and the survival of the
      global ecosystem.
      This two-way connection between science and society is the clearest
      demonstration that science is not neutral or value free as has been
      widely assumed. It also opens the way to changing society through
      another kind of science.

      Holistic, organic sciences emerging
      It was the failings of the dominant knowledge system that brought
      fifty thousand to the streets at the World Trade Organisation
      conference in Seattle in November 1999, which galvanised the anti-
      globalisation movement. The dominant paradigm has also failed within
      science. Across the disciplines, from the study of complexity in
      mathematics and co-operative phenomena in physics to the `fluid
      genome' in molecular genetics, the mechanistic conception of nature
      has been found thoroughly inadequate.
      Western science is facing its greatest challenge, to transcend the
      ruling paradigm to holistic, ecological perspectives that can foster
      the necessary shift to sustainable ways of life.
      Many individuals and local communities are already changing their own
      lives and the world around them for the better. They do so by
      learning from nature, and recognising the harmonious, symbiotic,
      mutualistic relationships that sustain ecosystems and make all life
      prosper, including the human beings as active, sensitive participants
      in the whole ecosystem.
      The same organic revolution is happening in western science over the
      past thirty years. Lovelock' s Gaia theory, for example, invites us
      to see the earth as one super-organism with a geo-physiology that
      maintains it in a dynamically stable state. This is an
      acknowledgement that we are ecologically entangled with all life on
      Even more remarkable, for some of us, is the message from quantum
      theory: that we are inextricably entangled with one another and with
      all nature, which we participate in co-creating. It restores and
      reaffirms the holistic perspectives that many indigenous cultures
      have never lost touch with. At the same time, it provides a western
      scientific perspective that can begin to connect with indigenous
      health and food production systems and practices, offering much scope
      for creative partnerships between western and indigenous knowledge.
      A holistic science for the west has the potential to transform the
      meaning and texture of the lives of all who live under the dominant
      knowledge system, and to create a social reality that genuinely
      serves the emotional, spiritual and physical needs of everyone. It
      would capture the common values that underlie the immense cultural
      diversity of our species.

      The Way Forward
      We need to substantially alter the way knowledge is acquired and
      applied. In particular, we need to transform the way scientific
      research is conducted in the west as well as the areas funded.

      Working science partnerships
      Scientists should work much more closely, if not directly, with local
      communities, in order that people's concerns and aspirations can help
      shape the research. More importantly, scientists could benefit
      greatly from local knowledge. Top priority must be given to
      revitalising and protecting traditional agricultural and healthcare
      systems from biopiracy and globalisation, and to developing sciences
      and technologies appropriate for the community.
      We recognise that not all research could be done with or
      within local communities. But even for research that is largely
      laboratory-based, the scientists should maintain close touch with the
      community of which they are part, and be responsive and sensitive to
      people's concerns.

      Science and technologies that should be supported
      There are many existing technologies that will make valuable
      contribution to sustainability. Rather than attempting to produce an
      exhaustive list of such technologies, we identify them in the context
      of two areas that desperately need to be funded.

      Ecology and energy use in sustainable systems
      Sustainable systems refer ultimately to entire ways of life,
      including agricultural and industrial production, transport, health
      and economic and social relationships. Of course, subsystems within
      the whole could also be studied in their own right. The need for
      energy efficient production and transport technologies is widely
      accepted. Not as well acknowledged are the following topics:
       Complexity and bio-diversity in agro-ecological systems
       Energy-relationships, energy use and renewable energies
       Concept of `waste' and sustainability
       Renewable energy generation and bio-degradable technologies
       New forms of public ownership
       Minimum waste generation and efficient processes in agriculture an=
       Novel ecological accounting procedures for sustainability
       Biophysical indicators of ecosystem health and monitoring
       Decentralised energy-efficient technologies that promote local
      autonomy and participation
       Social environmental indicators of sustainability
       Localisation and regionalisation versus globalisation

      Science of the organism and holistic health
      Many new research programmes fall potentially within the general area
      of "science of the organism". The emphasis is on non-linear complex
      dynamics, feedback and coherence, which are necessary for
      understanding complex systems in general. Especially important is the
      scientific underpinning of complementary and alternative medical
      practices, in view of the fact that homeopathy is entering mainstream
      medicine. The biological effects of mobile phones and other
      electrical installations in the environment, for example, also
      requires an appropriate biophysical understanding of the organism. We
      have identified the following topics:
       Biophysical model of the organism
       Understanding complementary and alternative medical practices
       Concept of holistic health that includes the social and ecological=

       Biophysical, dynamical indicators of health
       Social and environmental indicators of health
       Non-invasive, non-destructive technologies for monitoring health
      and food quality
       Effective therapeutic methods based on minimum intervention.

      Criteria of appropriate technologies
      Although it is not possible to predict discovery and inventions, the
      above considerations do allow us to make certain judgements
      concerning which technologies are appropriate for society, not just
      at the stage at which the technology is ready for use, but especially
      at the research and development stage.
      Apart from the obvious criteria that the technologies should not be
      harmful or toxic, there are other features to consider. They should
      respect human rights and ethical concerns of society. They should not
      compromise the conditions of life for future generations while
      benefiting the present. They should be affordable and genuinely
      improve the lives of all, and not just the rich. In the biomedical
      realm, for example, this would set a policy for minimum intervention
      technologies that are effective, that would also minimise the costs
      of patented procedures and products.
      One criterion that is perhaps not so obvious is that the technology
      should not compromise people's autonomy and choice, that is, people
      should not be coerced into using the technology. This is particularly
      relevant to genetic diagnostic tests targeted at `defective genes'
      that discriminate against individuals or the unborn, or DNA databases
      that compromise people's rights to privacy. Other situations might
      involve nano-technological implants that cannot easily be removed by
      the user.
      All of these criteria could be subject to debate. We suggest,
      however, there are existing technologies and research areas that
      could be targeted for outright bans or discontinuation.

      1. Technologies that should be banned
      Nuclear weapons
      Biological weapons
      Chemical weapons
      2. Technologies that should be phased out
      Nuclear power stations
      Fossil fuel
      Antibiotics in agriculture
      Agrochemicals: chemical herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers
      3. Technologies that should be subject to international peaceful
      Genetic engineering
      4. Research that should be discontinued
      Any research in weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological
      Genetic modification of animals for agriculture, pharmaceutical and
      industrial productions
      Genetic modification of plants released into the environment for
      agriculture, pharmaceutical and industrial productions
      Terminator technologies (genetic engineering for reproductive
      sterility, either in seed, pollen or ovule)
      Gene therapy
      Human cloning, including `therapeutic' human cloning
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