Biopiracy Revisited In Nagoya

Very briefly, as I am going from meeting to meeting, and the next session starts in 15 minutes: the negotiators of the Access and Benefit treaty has made some progress, they claim, having completed 19 articles with 23 remaining. They have until October 29 to finalize the important treaty, that they are referring to as "the heart of the Convention on Biological Diversity." Very difficult negotiations on issues like monitoring and compliance, and how to make sure that researchers actually have "prior informed consent" from the people in the region where he or she got a particular genetic resource...

I am mostly in the room with the compliance talks (Article 13) and it was interesting how the different groupings are very careful to not give in on any issue. For example, there is talk about creating check-points, and if they should be national authorities, or research institutions, or even the patent offices (many coutries in Europe use this as a way to control if genetic material comes from legitimate sources or not).

Check-points are very important for monitoring, as they can provide information on what happens to a sample after it is shipped to another country. There is concern that if a country approves use of a genetic resource as a medicine, perhaps the company will also start to do research and use it for cosmetics, which it was not supposed to do (at least not without sharing some of the profit with the provider country). Check-points are also said to be important for preserving precious resources, such as rare plants, that could be exploited or made extinct if there are no rules.

NHK showed an interesting documentary a few nights ago about several cases of biopiracy, and I met the producer of that film. I will add the link after the next session!

Meanwhile, we learn that about 75% of food biodiversity (seeds, fruit trees, even domesticated animals) was lost in the 20th century. Seriously, many of the 6 Billion plus people on this planet are still unable to feed themselves (or their children) and 80% of the world's dietary energy is supplied by just 12 different crops. And only 10 companies control more than 55% of the world's food seed market (and they want more).

We also rely on natural plants and their extracts for many, if not most, of our important drugs and medicines. The pharmaceutical industry and the biotech companies make it seem like they invent things in test tubes in laboratories, but that is rarely the case. They carefully craft such an image to steer our thinking away from nature, towards a world where they can claim extensive patent rights and make huge profits on substances and cures that were discovered and used by indigenous people since times immemorial. The biotech industry is of course here in Nagoya, freely talking to government delegates, giving them advice and encouragement.

Meanwhile, representatives from native peoples like the Same in northern Scandinavia or the Native Americans are equally if not better prepared to fight for their rights, but clearly under-funded and less able to influence the negotiations directly.

Comments

Tom O said…
Total respect for your patience, fortitude and - last but not least - gaman, I think I would have pulled all of my hair out (there is a lot of it, since last getting it cut in Takayama!) by now. "the different groupings are very careful to not give in on any issue". They come all the way (or not) to Nagoya just to stand their ground and not see the bigger picture. Agreement but on `their` terms, jeeze...

And then this sobering fact/thought - "we learn that about 75% of food biodiversity (seeds, fruit trees, even domesticated animals) was lost in the 20th century". Not sure how I would explain this to a child of mine, they`d be bound to ask after all! When these things - like trees which are just suddenly ripped up which were ALSO providing shelter etc - are gone they are, um, gone - done/period.

So, to end, 19 articles down 23 to go - gonna be a hard days serious of nights. Keep up the good work - maybe what happened back in Hanno has provided some extra fight in Nagoya. Maybe/ The fauna/flora cant make a fight of it themselves, maybe they will yet - Gaia etc.
Martin J Frid said…
Thanks, tack, danke, arigatou...
Tom O said…
Just briefly saw the thing about the BBC - and had this ready to paste...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11563513

Ignorance is bliss, ne.

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