Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Markets of biodiversity and equity in trade: an illusion?

31.01.2008
Since the end of the 1980s, the idea has become predominant that the best way to ensure conservation of biodiversity was to create value for it in the framework of markets.

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
Further information:
http://www.ird.fr/us/actualites/fiches/2007/fas284.pdf

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>