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 New parsley virus discovered by Braunschweig researchers
17.05.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

nachricht Franco-German research initiative on low-pesticide agriculture in Europe
16.05.2019 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF) e.V.

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: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

Im Focus: Tube anemone has the largest animal mitochondrial genome ever sequenced

Discovery by Brazilian and US researchers could change the classification of two species, which appear more akin to jellyfish than was thought.

The tube anemone Isarachnanthus nocturnus is only 15 cm long but has the largest mitochondrial genome of any animal sequenced to date, with 80,923 base pairs....

Im Focus: Tiny light box opens new doors into the nanoworld

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have discovered a completely new way of capturing, amplifying and linking light to matter at the nanolevel. Using a tiny box, built from stacked atomically thin material, they have succeeded in creating a type of feedback loop in which light and matter become one. The discovery, which was recently published in Nature Nanotechnology, opens up new possibilities in the world of nanophotonics.

Photonics is concerned with various means of using light. Fibre-optic communication is an example of photonics, as is the technology behind photodetectors and...

Im Focus: Cost-effective and individualized advanced electronic packaging in small batches now available

Fraunhofer IZM is joining the EUROPRACTICE IC Service platform. Together, the partners are making fan-out wafer level packaging (FOWLP) for electronic devices available and affordable even in small batches – and thus of interest to research institutes, universities, and SMEs. Costs can be significantly reduced by up to ten customers implementing individual fan-out wafer level packaging for their ICs or other components on a multi-project wafer. The target group includes any organization that does not produce in large quantities, but requires prototypes.

Research always means trying things out and daring to do new things. Research institutes, universities, and SMEs do not produce in large batches, but rather...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Concert of magnetic moments

14.06.2019 | Information Technology

Materials informatics reveals new class of super-hard alloys

14.06.2019 | Materials Sciences

New imaging modality targets cholesterol in arterial plaque

14.06.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>