by Oren Lyons
Akwesasne Notes, Winter, 1996
. . . Development poses questions not only of ethics but also of human rights, and even further, the rights of natural life co-habitating impacted areas.
It poses questions of the long term consequences of changing ecosystems; it raises the question of authority and from whence it is derived; it raises questions of morality and sovereignty and the notions of "sustainable development", "market", and "standards" of living. These actions pose questions that need attention and answers. 
There is a higher authority and we are subject to its laws. There are no appeals courts for these laws. There is only the law and we will suffer in direct proportion to our transgressions against it. . . .
A thousand years ago or more we the Haudenosaunee, the Iroquois,were given the rules and processes of democracy. The principles of this democracy are: Peace in mind and community, Equitv, which is justice for the people, and the power of the good minds, which embodies good health and reason.
This democracy established power in the people who joined of their own free will. It established the process of informed consent. It balanced the duties of governance between men and women. It gave women the duty of choosing leadership, that was then ratified by consensus of the people. It also gave women the power of recall. It provided the principle of representation of people in government, as well as accountability by leadership.
It established respect as a law. It established access to all leaders and an open forum on all issues, and it did not discriminate on the basis of gender or age. It promoted freedom as a responsibility and above all it was based upon the spiritual laws of nature.
This Democracy is all inclusive. Democracy is direct access to leadership. Democracy is equal protection under law. True democracy does not abide privilege, nor centralized control of power. Leadership is privileged only to serve. And the leaders needs come last after the people. 
To take responsible position in this idea of "sustainable development" the Haudenosaunee empowered The Haudenosaunee Task Force on Environment to do an assessment of our remaining territories. . . .
This project meets this World Bank's criteria for science and scholarship. We ask you to fund this project as one that has been initiated by indigenous peoples, with the cooperation of the State of New York, United States, and United Nations Agencies.
What more would you need?
In contrast to the positive foregoing project, we bring before you an illustration of what we consider to be one of the worst market-based intrusions, and violations of indigenous peoples human rights by science: namely the Human Genome Diversity Project. This unethical project embodies the attitude of inherent racism underlying many high tech economic ventures that violate intellectual property and the very genetic fabric of indigenous peoples. 
Anglo-European anthropologists, geneticists, lawyers, and ethicists are eager to "Immortalize" (preserve forever), DNA sequences of indigenous peoples on the verge of extinction (according to the Human Genome Diversity Project), yet remain unconcerned with preserving indigenous peoples and cultures.
What would the reaction have been if indigenous peoples planned to sample the DNA of all non-indigenous peoples worldwide, without broad participation and discussion, and without approval and involvement from the very beginning? 
What does it mean, for example, that the US courts have decided that it is now legally permissible for individuals and corporations to patent DNA sequences obtained from other human beings? Do we no longer own our sacred bodies? Are we no longer the owners and stewards of our very genetic makeup?
What does it mean, practically, ethically, and legally, for an indigenous person to consent to give DNA samples to the Human Genome Diversity Project? Does this consent open the doors for others to patent sequences of his or her DNA? How would one know if part of one's DNA sequence has been patented at some point in the future? What recourse would one have nationally and internationally, if one discovered that part of his or her DNA was subsequently patented? . . .
What are the implications of the case of John Moore versus the University of California over the ownership of cell lines taken from John Moore during a routine medical examination, and subsequently patented and used commercially by others, for profit? 
In 1995 the case of John Moore versus the University of California was still pending. In 1976 surgeons removed cancerous spleen cells from a leukemia patient, John Moore of California. Unknown to him at the time, Moore's doctors later developed a cell line (MO) from a routine cell sample which was found to produce high levels of useful proteins. A patent for this cell line was granted in 1984. Also in 1984, John Moore filed a lawsuit claiming that his blood cells were misappropriated, and that he was entitled to share in the profits derived from the commercial uses of his cells. In 1990 the California Supreme court ruled that John Moore had no rights to the patented cell line exracted from his blood sample. The court stated that he did not have the rights of ownership over his cells after they had been removed. He did however, have the right to sue his doctors for failing to inform him of the potential commercial value of his cell line. The basis of John Moore's so-called consent was a key issue in this case.
In 1995 a US appeal court ruled that the discovery of a novel gene sequence cannot be described as obvious, and therefore, can legitimately be included in a patent, thus opening the legal floodgates to the broad patenting of human genes and partial gene squences. At the time of this ruling Human Genome Sciences (HGS) Inc. in Rockville, Maryland had over 70 patent applications pending on partial and full gene sequences awaiting a ruling from the US Patents and Trademark Office (PTO). 
In February 1994, the Human Genome Organziaiton (HUGO), the parent organization of the Human Genome Diversity Project, concluded that "the patent system is the mechanism of excellence for commercializing the results of the human genome project".
Commercialization of the human genome "does not require reinventing the internationally proved, 200-year-old patent system, but simply adapting it."