Case Studies and Conflicting Interests
Edited by Tania Bubela and E. Richard Gold
Chapter 8: Canada’s First Nations’ Policies and Practices Related to Managing Traditional Knowledge
Peter W.B. Phillips, Sidi Zhang, Tara Williams and Laural DeBusschere INTRODUCTION There is increasing policy and commercial interest in using or controlling traditional knowledge (TK) related to genetic resources. In part, this has emerged from a growing recognition that indigenous groups are holders of valuable knowledge and practices that may be used to address problems that face global society in ways that the current Western knowledge system cannot. The use of traditional knowledge and associated genetic resources in modern biotechnology has created a complex tangle of claims over rights, entitlements and expectations of access, ownership and reward. The Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Mayor, 1994) defines traditional knowledge: The indigenous people of the world possess an immense knowledge of their environments, based on centuries of living close to nature. Living in and from the richness and variety of complex ecosystems, they have an understanding of the properties of plants and animals, the functioning of ecosystems and the techniques for using and managing them that is particular and often detailed. In rural communities in developing countries, locally occurring species are relied on for many – sometimes all – foods, medicines, fuel, building materials and other products. Equally, people’s knowledge and perceptions of the environment, and their relationships with it, are often important elements of cultural identity. The essence of TK is that it is a cumulative body of knowledge evolved by adaptive processes and passed to successive generations through cultural transmission. This kind of knowledge has been vitally...
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