KUALA LUMPUR (MALAYSIA) – While some 70 Ministers gather here today for the final part of a key United Nations meeting on biodiversity , Friends of the Earth International denounced attempts by governments to negotiate rules on access to genetic resources without taking into account the threats posed by biopiracy [the appropriation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge].
The 188 parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed on Feb.17 the Terms of Reference for an international regime on access to genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge and benefit sharing without safeguards for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and small farmers, according to the environmental federation.
Through their traditional technologies and practices, farmers and Indigenous Peoples have been the main caretakers and breeders of seeds, medicinal plants and other forms of biodiversity. Companies and commercial research institutions are trying to buy these varieties and the associated traditional knowledge, in order to monopolize and profit from this valuable information through patents and other intellectual property rights. This is called biopiracy.
“The international regime that is currently proposed will do nothing to halt such biopiracy practices”, explains Isaac Rojas of COECO- CEIBA/Friends of the Earth-Costa Rica.
“As existing practices to patent life forms and associated knowledge are not addressed by the proposed scope of the regime, the outcome of these negotiations will only lead to further theft of genetic resources and traditional innovations,” he added.
“Traditional knowledge and biodiversity are collectively shared amongst Indigenous Peoples and local farmer communities, so existing intellectual property regimes do not provide appropriate tools to protect their rights”, adds Simone Lovera, Biodiversity Coordinator of Friends of the Earth International.
“Instead, these systems violate the rights of farmers and Indigenous Peoples to freely exchange and reproduce their seeds, and other genetic resources and associated knowledge. Women, who are often the main caretakers of seeds and holders of traditional knowledge, are the main victims of this biopiracy,” she added.
Friends of the Earth International support the position of the Indigenous Peoples Forum on Biodiversity, which has called for a clear safeguard of Indigenous Peoples’ rights before any negotiations on an international regime are started.
Friends of the Earth International welcome the safeguards to Indigenous Rights that have been incorporated into the Work Program on Protected Areas. However the environmental network regrets that the work program has failed to properly address the major causes of biodiversity loss: large-scale commercial logging, mining and oil exploration.
“In many countries, governments are handing out mining and logging concessions in protected areas, while banning local communities from entering these areas,” explains Abraham Baffoe of Friends of the Earth-Ghana.
“So-called ecotourism, plantation establishment, climate change and over-consumption in general form big threats to rainforests and other biodiversity-rich ecosystems, and we will not be able to protect these areas unless these threats are effectively addressed” adds Shamila Ariffin of Sahabat Alam Malaysia/ Friends of the Earth-Malaysia.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT IN KUALA LUMPUR:
Simone Lovera, International Campaign Coordinator, Friends of the Earth International: +31-610897827
Isaac Rojas, Biopiracy Campaign Coordinator, Friends of the Earth- Costa Rica: +60-173278680
Shamila Ariffin, Media and Research Officer, Sahabat Alam Malaysia/ Friends of the Earth-Malaysia: +60-163174049