Stop the Patenting of Wild Rice





TITLE: New Threats to Manoomin
AUTHOR: Brian Calrson of White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP) with help from Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), Institute for Social, Economic, and Ecological Sustainability (ISEES) and Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism (IPCB)
DATE: February 2002
SOURCE: email circular from IATP

Dear Civil Society,

The Anishinaabeg -- the Native American tribes from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada who have cultivated Manoomin (Wild Rice) for thousands of years -- have started a dialogue on how to protect wild rice as an indigenous resource. The following information was produced by the White Earth Land Recovery Project as a result of a collaborative meeting between representatives of many Native American (American Indian) tribes.

Your support will be critical in protecting wild rice from corporate takeover. Wild rice is not only an important economic source of wealth for the Anishinaabeg. It is also integral to their spirituality. Please help to stop this cultural genocide.

Contact the White Earth Land Recovery Project at the number or email below and let them know you are willing to provide whatever help necessary to protect Manoomin.


Neil Sorensen IATP


February 2002

Manoomin Akiing
Wild Rice Country


This email has information to explain what is happening to our Manoomin (Wild Rice) and its effects on our communities and culture.



1) Two California companies have received patents on hybrid strains of domestic (paddy) wild rice. Their work involves male sterility in wild rice.

Increasing the male sterility of wild rice, which destroys the natural reproductive process of wild rice, will have the potential of requiring ricers to purchase wild rice seed to replenish rice beds.

2) The University of Minnesota in collaboration with big seed and chemical companies has completed a map of the genome of wild rice.

This is a first step in genetically modifying or altering the wild rice.

It is likely that wild rice has already been or will be genetically modified in laboratories, and it is only a matter of time before field trials take place, which is when genetic pollution of our sacred wild rice will begin.

The clock is ticking, and university and private researchers are moving to profit from their work on wild rice. It is urgent that tribes address the issues and take action.

Genetic modification, which means altering life from a genetic level, facilitates corporate control or claims of ownership over wild rice through the use of patents.

Genetically modified rice has the potential to irreversibly alter natural strains of wild rice when released into the environment.


There is a long controversy about the misrepresentation of paddy rice as wild rice, and this has already caused great economic hardship to our communities. The labeling laws designed to protect our wild rice labels were repealed by the Minnesota Legislature (the only state with any protection whatsoever). This problem is getting worse as well.

Hybridization of wild rice -- the development of varieties that exhibit desired characteristics for industrial production -- could eventually lead to the extinction of real wild rice.


Gene(s): The biological makeup within an organism, which can be reduced, expanded and/or isolated for diverse purposes.

Genome: The complete genetic makeup of an organism, which makes the genetic material more accessible to researchers by pin-pointing specific genes.

Hybridization: The act of cross breeding organisms to obtain a desired effect through the exchange of genetic information.

Patent: A grant made by the government to an inventor, assuring the sole right to make, use, and sell the invention for a certain period of time.

Male Sterility: A naturally occuring expression in some male Wild Rice plants. It is this trait that researchers have used to develop paddy rice and patent.

Genetic Modification: The act of taking or adding genetic materials in certain combinations to change or modify an organism.

Paddy Rice: The hybrid rice made through cross breeding that has been designed to be cultivated in farm paddies and mechanically harvested.

Lake (Natural) Rice: Rice that is natural and free of genetic/scientific modification and is cultivated in its natural environment of lakes and streams.

Genetic Engineering: The act of extracting and implanting genetic materials from one organism to another in order to produce new or modified organisms.

Genetic Alteration: The act of altering the naturally occuring genetic sequence of an organism to reach a desired effect.

Treaty/Sovereignty Rights: Inherent rights given to Indigenous Peoples that protect their culture and traditions and the land; these precede patent laws.



* Community education of community members and tribal leadership through workshops and presentations on these issues. * Tribal governments can establish laws to control or prohibit genetic research taht could potentially be detrimental to the people and the environment. * Tribes can conduct research to find out if any field trials are being conducted in their areas.


* Tribal leadership could work together to establish protective policies at the state and provincial level to protect their collective interests.

* Conduct regional workshops and presentations on genetic technologies and the threats to wild rice for tribal leadership.


* Challenge existing and future patents on wild rice.

* Work to diminish the market for hybrid rice by educating consumers.

* Work collaboratively to establish national policies which protect the collective interest of Anishinaabeg.

* Research language in international treaties, conventions, and declarations that are supportive of the rights of the Anishinaabeg to protect their collective rights.


Wild rice is central and sacred to the heart and spirit of the Anishinaabeg (and other indigenous peoples).

The Anishinaabeg territories are the center of origin for natural diverse original strains of wild rice.

Wild rice is an essential part of Anishinaabeg sustenance and survival, and its integrity is threatened by corporate control.

The right and responsibility to protect wild rice for future generations is an inherent right of the Anishinaabeg, and is further protected by our self-governance, sovereignty and treaty rights.

If you have questions or comments, please call or email WELRP at:
White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP)

32022 East Round Lake Road
Ponsford, Minnesota 56575 USA
Tel: (1-888) 779 35 77








The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is a federally recognized Indian Tribe, organized under a Constitution adopted August 25, 1938, and approved on November 9, 1938 pursuant to Section 16 of the Indian Reorganization Act; and,


The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa enjoys treaty rights in areas on and off-Reservation, which includes gathering Wild Rice; and,


The Red Cliff Tribal Council is aware that the University of Minnesota has been researching the Wild Rice genome and two California private seed companies have applied for and received two patents on a male sterile strain of Wild Rice; and,


The Red Cliff Tribe is gravely concerned over the idea that any patents could be issued for a naturally wild, and culturally significant plant: if anything, these companies are stealing information; and,


The Treaty/Natural Resources Division and the Treaty/Natural Resources Protection Committee has advised the Red Cliff Tribal Council that continued genetic research and patenting of Wild Rice will compromise the traditional, cultural, and spiritual values of Tribal members and the integrity of the Wild Rice plant itself, and;


that the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa does hereby oppose all patenting and genetic research being conducted on Wild Rice, or any of the other Earth plants; and,


that the Red Cliff Tribal Council calls on all Natural Resources agencies to protect our property rights, which includes Wild Rice, from risks by outlawing the research and the potential for a contaminated gene pool of Mother Earth’s Wild Rice (not tame, sterile, or hybrids) Rice.



I, the undersigned Secretary of the Tribal Council of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewas, a federally recognized Indian Tribe, hereby certify that the Tribal Council is composed of 9 Members, of whom _____, constituting a quorum were present at a meeting there of duly called, noticed, and convened, held on the first day of April 2002; and that the foregoing resolution was adopted at said meeting by and affirmative vote of _____ Members and that said resolution has not been rescinded or amended in any way.


Dennis J. Soulier, Tribal Secretary

Red Cliff Tribal Council




The Anishinaabeg to protect wild rice biodiversity

Wild rice (or manoomin), cultivated by indigenous peoples for thousands of years, is coming under threat of hybridization and genetic modification. The Anishinaabeg-- tribes and First Nations in the Great Lakes states and provinces of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ontario and Quebec-- have started a dialogue on how to protect the native, genetically unmodified biodiversity of wild rice as a cultural resource.

Two hybrid strains of wild rice industrially bred for sterility have already received patents. Increasing sterility of wild rice will likely require rice growers to constantly purchase seed to replenish rice beds. Hybridization of wild rice also poses the threat of causing genetic extinction of native wild rice. The genome of wild rice has also recently been mapped, the first step needed for future investments into genetic modification. Genetically modified rice has the potential to irreversibly alter natural strains of wild rice if released into the environment.

Tribes and First Nations are being encouraged to protect native wild rice�s genetic biodiversity and this important cultural resource. For more information, or to help in this effort, please contact: White Earth Land Recovery Project, ph: 1-888-779-3577, email:

Dear Friends,

This email is to update you on some correspondence I have conducted to prepare for our upcoming meeting. Please read the following and if you have any questions please email or call me. Again the meeting is March 20th at the Fond Du Lac Community Center in Cloquet Minnesota.

1) Suggestions from IATP (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and constituents)

With the IATP�s help our information from our last meeting and the consensus we came to has been sent out to other groups and communities that are struggling with issues of bio-colonialism, bio-piracy and environmental injustice world wide. The momentum that is building internationally will aid us in the actions we take here regionally and nationally.

A media campaign as one of the strategies we came to consensus on would be an action that would bring public awareness to this issue regionally and nationally. Utilizing our entire email and distribution list we can send out updates and pass information onto our communities. (Working with University Green Party groups, IATP and other grassroots organizations)

File a reexamination claim of the previous patents that have been obtained. This process is expensive and lengthy and would require legal assistance. This is something would need to discuss further and come to consensus upon. I have all the guidelines and procedure available. If you would like to look at them or have a copy please let me know.

The development of a tangible local strategy for each of respective communities that would inform the public and our families as to the threats against our Manoomin. This can be done through community forums, talking circles, ceremony and countless other ways. The informational brochure is available and the development of possible teaching tools is also underway. Please contact WELRP if you would like to help with the formation of additional educational materials. Some examples are: posters, power point presentations, and videos)

At present a letter writing campaign is being incited as a way to bring about a possible injunction against the University for their continued work on additional patents in Manoomin.

One of the main issues surrounding the University actions is the fact they are not willing nor have been active is being open about the proceedings of research regarding wild rice. The fact they are not discussing fully their research, the rational for doing it or the possible implication with the Native peoples, especially after request that they do by the Native community, is viewed as discriminatory

Also: Here are contact numbers for Hotels in the area if you need to make arrangements. -Super 8 Hotel Cloquet MN: 1-218-879-1250 -American Inn Cloquet MN: 1-218-879-1231 -Black Bear Casino Cloquet MN: 1-218-878-7434

** A draft agenda will be sent out this week for your review and comments.**

Brian Carlson



North Country Cooperative Presents:

Bio-colonialism: Wild Rice Threatened?

Winona LaDuke

Tuesday May 7, 7pm
Willey Hall Room 125
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Environmental and social activist Winona LaDuke will address issues facing wild rice production for native growers in Minnesota. The Norcal Wild Rice Company in California has secured two patents on wild rice production and certain components of a variety of wild rice. Furthermore, Ron Phillips of the University of Minnesota has mapped the wild rice genome. (This study was underwritten by seed/chemical conglomerates Monsanto and Dupont).

These patents and current research may increase the likelihood of male sterility, requiring local harvesters to purchase seed. This is not currently necessary due to the rice's natural reproductive process. Native growers also fear hybridization of wild rice with paddy rice, as this would facilitate the man-made production of wild rice and could lead to the extinction of real wild rice.

These recent developments worry the Anishinaabeg and other cultures throughout the region and beyond. Major implications of this research include: indigenous rights to land and their economic survival, corporatization of nature, and the survival of wild rice.

At this event Winona LaDuke, who ran for vice president in 1996 and 2000 with Ralph Nader under the Green Party, will be speaking on behalf of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, of which she is the founding director. Their website is: For more information, please contact: Cara Saunders (612) 722 5518.


Printer friendly Petition

Dear Friends,

Here is the Petition to Stop the Bio-Piracy of Wild Rice. Please take time to read this and to email WELRP as your means of signing onto this petition. We need your Name/Organizational Name and Region or Location.

Thank you for your support and aid in fighting this threat to the sacredness of Manoomin. Please call the office if you have any questions or concerns.


Brian Carlson
WELRP 1-888-779-3577

Drafted April 9, 2002

We, the undersigned support the White Earth Land Recovery Project and the coalition of Native and non-native communities, citizen groups and individuals in their initiatives and efforts to end the bio-piracy and bio-colonialism of Manoomin (wild rice).

We, the undersigned advocate that the Anishinaabeg have the inherent right and responsibility to protect wild rice for future generations which is imbedded in the protection of their sovereignty and treaty rights.

We, the undersigned advocate and uphold the Anishinaabeg territories as the center of origin of natural diverse stands of wild rice and recognize that wild rice is central and sacred to the heart and spirit of the Anishinaabeg and other indigenous peoples.

We, the undersigned and the coalition of supporters agree that genetic research in the form of modifying wild rice in such a way that it harms the culture and traditions of the Anishinaabeg and other indigenous peoples must stop.

We, the undersigned and the coalition of supporters agree that all patents taken out on wild rice due to actions of genetic modification and research systems are not recognized and are harmful to the livelihood and well-bring of the Anishinaabeg and other indigenous peoples.

We, the undersigned and the coalition of supporters agree that all wild rice beds and habitats in north America need to be protected from all forms of genetic and invasive pollution.

We, the undersigned and the collation of supporters agree that the control of any protective research done on wild rice must come from within the Anishinaabeg and Indigenous communities and be supported by the greater communities who value the health of ecosystems and habitats.

We, the undersigned and the coalition of supporters agree that the labeling of hybrid cultivated (paddy) rice needs to differentiate and be explicit in the labeling by recognizing that it is not a "natural" or a "wild" rice.

We, the undersigned and the coalition of supporters are in full agreement and support of the Anishinaabeg and other Indigenous peoples in their initiatives to end the bio-piracy and bio-colonialism of their culture, traditions, spirituality and livelihoods expressed through the above demands.

Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism
PO Box 818
Wadsworth, NV 89442
Tel: 001 (775)835-6932    Fax: 001 (775) 835-6934
Email: Website:



Chippewa rice beds succumb to development, pollution

By Peter Rebhahn
Green Bay Press-Gazette
June 23, 2003

MOLE LAKE - Sokaogon Chippewa tribe elder Fred Ackley learned everything he needed to know about wild rice from his grandmother.

"That was our life at one time out here," said Ackley with a nod at nearby Rice Lake, home to the Chippewa's ancestral rice beds.

Gaming now occupies the place in the lives of Native Americans once filled by hunting and gathering. Times change.

The rice beds remain, but the ancient knowledge Ackley learned from his ancestors may not be enough to guarantee the beds' future. The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission is studying wild rice here with the aim of saving what's left of Wisconsin's native rice beds and seeding promising wetlands that may never have been home to the plant.

Members of the Native American Journalists Association, in Green Bay this past week for the organization's 19th annual convention, toured ecological points of interest in or near some of the Indian reservations in the state. The visit to Rice Lake was part of the tour.

"We know we've lost a lot of rice beds in the historical perspective," biologist Peter David of the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission said. "It's harder to know what's happening in the near term."

The commission was formed in 1984 in the wake of confrontations between native and nonnative populations over Indian fish spearing and other off-reservation treaty rights.

Scientists have learned much about wild rice, or 'manoomin' in the Chippewa language, since the commission began a database on the plant 15 years ago.

"By and large, for rice, it hasn't been good," David said.

David estimates Wisconsin has lost at least half the wild rice beds the state's wetlands once held. Wetland loss, pollution and shoreline development have all taken a toll.

Even motorized boat traffic harms the plants, especially now, in mid-June, when the tender leaves float on the water surface. "People may not know what it is growing off the end of their dock," David said.

Wild rice is an annual plant that grows anew from seed every year. It's very sensitive to changes in water levels. The plants grow best in water 1 to 2 feet deep. Some year-to-year fluctuation in water level is good for the plants, as long as it's moderate.

"You can drown a rice bed very easily," David said. Many dams across the state have done exactly that.

David said the Chippewa and other tribes have been a 'catalyst' in a reseeding effort that has planted from three to seven tons of seed in promising Great Lakes wetlands annually in recent years.

"We're just trying to hold on to what we have here," Ackley said.



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