Archive | April 4, 2011

The Potato Royalty to Be Paid!?

The Potato Royalty to Be Paid!?

By Hwaa Irfan

Sometimes seeing is believing, and then sometimes even that is not enough, especially when for how many hundreds of years on keeps repeating the same thing, again, and again, and again. One just have to know who one is, and not betray the self, in order to rise above the maddening crowd. That is what Survival International did, amidst all the onslaughts on the Keepers of the Earth, in this case the indigenous peoples of South America, who have lost much of their world, as globalization in the name of free trade threatens to deprive them even more.

How much we take for granted when we go to the market to buy a kilo+ of potatoes to bring on home. Potatoes are plentiful, and in general one of the cheapest foods we can buy, and in the process of buying, cooking and eating the potato like everything on this earth with a life force, it has an origin.

When the U.N. gets involved, solutions become even more evasive, but this time they have taken a leaf out of their book of declarations. April’s Fool is what might come to mind on first hearing the news, and one might not even given it a second thought without a little bit of exploration to discover that it is actually true that the UN’s Intellectual Property Tribunal have honoured the indigenous peoples of South America, by not only acknowledging that the indigenous people of Peru, are indeed the first cultivators of the potato (3000 and 2000 BC ) we all love to eat, but that they should be paid 1% in royalties from the total sale of potatoes around the world!

The original claim was made by the South American Native Tribes Executive (Sante). This battle did not come easy for a people who are being continuously impoverished, while everyone else benefits in health and wealth for what has become the world’s fourth largest food crop.

“This is a great victory for Sante and tribal people around the world. With the royalties we get from the potatoes, we will be able to buy back some of the lands that ranchers, loggers, and oil companies have taken from us,” said Sante’s President, Jorge Papas to Survival International.

How the mechanism will be implemented to make this U.N. ruling a practical reality is another question as the miniscule 1% is expected to generate $200mn for the Peruvians.

Patenting Nature

For those who err on the side of caution, there is a holding of breath to see what the next step will be apart from the materialization of 1% royalties, for this ruling comes from the UN’s Intellectual Property Tribunal. Apart from all the other crops that the indigenes of South America have cultivated, from which humanity as a whole have benefited watching with abated breath surely are the multinational, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies who have patented away half of the known species as the World Trade Organization created laws that protect the international elite, making them richer, and other poorer through laws like Trade Related Intellectual Property, TRIP, which in turn is protected under the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the World Intellectual Property Organization which is ripe to take advantage of those countries who are not proactive with the defence of their own natural and biodiverse resources.

Unfortunately life is stranger than fiction…. April Fools! 😦


Taber, J. “South America: South American Indians to Receive Royalties From Potato Sales.”

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