The great upsurge in genetic engineering techniques at that time offered a glimpse of many possibilities for money-earning uses of natural substances by living-resource-based industries. In this context, the Convention on Biological Diversity, a measure adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, advocated the development of trade agreements between holders and users of genetic resources, foreseeing a fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from such resources.
Fifteen years after the signature of the Convention on Biological Diversity, a multidisciplinary team involving researchers from the IRD and other institutions conducted a review of the current situation. They highlighted the gap between the theories circulating around the Convention adopted in Brazil and the real situations prevailing in transactions, expectations and constraints which characterize the relations being established between the different parties involved: local communities, States of the South, industrial companies.
Over recent years, strong media coverage of “pillage” of local resources, food plants or products of traditional pharmacopoeias, on which patents had been taken out, appeared as signs of an active biopiracy. Some States of the South, supported by the non governmental organizations (NGOs), have therefore seen looming the risk of watching powerless an unbridled exploitation of indigenous people’s knowledge and resources, with insufficient means to stem the flow. Others considered that if regulated and reasoned, the use of genetic resources could favour their conservation while being a source of revenue for local communities and the countries of the South, but also allow biotechnological innovations and generate transfer of technology.
The idea of a market, bringing face to face a supply of genetic resources by the South and a demand emanating from the North, attracted by promises of financial reward, held up the bright prospect of development of these transactions. The representations conveyed by the Convention on Biological Diversity turn out to be simplistic. Analysis of the demand in the agricultural sector and the pharmaceutical industry in terms of research and development put into perspective the needs of these different users of biodiversity and provided an updated description of them. The issues at stake for the pharmaceutical firms concern rather more the control over property rights protecting the synthesis of new compounds than access to genetic resources. Moreover, pharmaceutical industry demand bears at least as much on microorganisms from soils or the deep sea floors, even on chemical products and substances stemming from nanobiotechnology, as on “unknown plants” of tropical forests. Similarly, the recourse to indigenous knowledge for producing innovations and, even more so, the possibility for the peoples who have them to benefit from them seem to have been greatly overestimated. On the supply side, it turned out that people handle their human relations in accordance with their environment and not the genetic resources assimilated with such merchandise. In addition, they do not always have the capacities for negotiating on an equal footing with industry. Fair trading, labels or geographical indications can be used to promote products generating from particular indigenous savoir-faire, but these instruments do not directly concern biodiversity. As for patents coming from the industrial world, they are not adapted for protecting collective knowledge and heritage.
The gulf that separates the founding representations of the Convention on Biological Diversity from the real situations is particularly evident with the problem of biopiracy. Extensive media coverage of certain cases like ayahuasca, a beverage based on plants with hallucinogenic properties consumed traditionally by shamans of Amazonian Indian tribes, or maca, a plant from the pharmacopoeia of Peru reputed for its aphrodisiac virtues, gives the illusion that biodiversity relates to elements whose interpretation remains indisputable. The term in fact encompasses many different notions: filing of patents on applications or properties of plants collected in local communities?with or without consent?, disclosure or use of traditional knowledge for commercial ends, filing of common names as trade names, agreements whose clauses or implementation are unsatisfactory and so on. This gives it a rather hazy status which makes it more difficult to establish public policies that might ensure the conservation of biodiversity.
Grégory Fléchet | alfa
Microjet generator for highly viscous fluids
13.02.2018 | Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Sweet route to greater yields
08.02.2018 | Rothamsted Research
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy