The Role of NGOs and Social Movements
Chapter 3: Agriculture, Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge
INTRODUCTION The development of intellectual property-related assets derived from agriculture, genetic resources and traditional knowledge has made an enormous contribution to the improvement of human livelihoods and to the technological advancements of society. In agriculture, for example, the exploitation of genetic resources has led to improved crop varieties and, ultimately, contributed to greater food security. The appropriation of genetic resources has created the prospect of valuable tradable assets given the potential for their commercial use that could benefit the economies of many developing countries rich in biodiversity. Potentially, it could also benefit the indigenous peoples and local communities who developed uses for genetic resources in the first place as part of their traditional knowledge. However, the nature and terms under which genetic resources can be accessed have changed dramatically in recent years. The free flow and trade of genetic resources has been replaced by a wide range of national and international legal instruments that seek to regulate access, control and use of genetic biodiversity and to protect traditional knowledge. Of particular concern has been the trend to extend intellectual property rights (patents and plant breeders’ rights) to plant genetic resources. The link between intellectual property rights and biodiversity arises from the fact that in many instances bio-prospectors engaged in the systematic search for, and development of, new sources of chemical compounds, genes, micro-organisms and other valuable biological products are granted patents or plant breeders’ rights without any acknowledgement of the contribution of countries of origin or of indigenous peoples and...
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