UK POLICY ON INDIGENOUS IPR?
New Scientist, May 22, 2004
people are often at the mercy of bio-pirates, who steal their traditional
knowledge of medicinal plants. That was the considered view of the
UN Convention on Biodiversity, which met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
unwritten knowledge that indigenous people pass down the generations
is rarely recognised by patent regulators. A noteworthy proposal
from the UN convention was that confidential databases of traditional
knowledge should be set up. The UN called on governments to insist
that companies show they have gained prior informed consent from
indigenous communities before exploiting plants or crops for commercial
gain. I asked Hilary Benn, the secretary for international development,
what the UK's policy is on helping such people to get their due
replied that the government helped to negotiate a satisfactory mandate
for an international regime on access and benefit sharing. This
covers traditional knowledge and recognises the need for a balance
between facilitating access to genetic resources and sharing benefits.
The government is now following up a number of recommendations from
the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights--an independent body
set up by the Department for International Development (DFID) in
2001--to ensure indigenous people are rewarded for their role in
husbanding biodiversity and identifying the medicinal, nutritional
and other properties of many species.