Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge

Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge

Case Studies and Conflicting Interests

Elgar Intellectual Property and Global Development series

Edited by Tania Bubela and E. Richard Gold

This fascinating study describes efforts to define and protect traditional knowledge and the associated issues of access to genetic resources, from the negotiation of the Convention on Biological Diversity to The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Nagoya Protocol. Drawing on the expertise of local specialists from around the globe, the chapters judiciously mix theory and empirical evidence to provide a deep and convincing understanding of traditional knowledge, innovation, access to genetic resources, and benefit sharing.

Chapter 11: A Capabilities-based Framework

Julia Carbone

Subjects: development studies, development studies, environment, biotechnology, law - academic, intellectual property law


Julia Carbone INTRODUCTION The value of genetic resources found on Indigenous land and associated traditional knowledge is well established and has given rise to extensive debate on how to prevent ‘misappropriation’ of resources and knowledge that properly ‘belong’ to indigenous peoples. While we are still lacking a clear global definition of traditional knowledge, it can include both scientific knowledge – e.g. the medicinal properties of plants, classification systems or knowledge about land use and plant breeding as well as genetic information that is derived from specimens found on indigenous peoples’ lands – and traditional cultural expressions such as dance, music, rituals and art works. As we have seen in previous chapters, in Canada’s north, the focus is largely on ‘traditional ecological knowledge’, which includes, for example, knowledge about conservation methods, migration patterns or population trends, all useful for environmental impact assessments. In Brazil, treatment of knowledge about medicinal properties of plants has been at the forefront of debate while in Kenya, we have seen how plant breeding methods are among the types of knowledge that give rise to these calls. The question remains whether current property-based approaches actually succeed in addressing indigenous peoples concerns. Can a capabilities-based framework better guide policy formation? Discourse surrounding how to address the protection of traditional knowledge has largely taken place at the international level. Chapter 2 by Charles Lawson gives a detailed review of the various international forums and their approaches – from the World Intellectual Property Office’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, to...

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