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MORE CASES ...

The list of recent cases, in which the traditional knowledge was used to patent plants in industrialized countries, is long. Here just a few more examples …

Biribiri
In Canada, Biolink, a small company, has patented rupununine, a substance extracted from the seeds of bibiri (Octotea radioei), an Amazon plant. The Wapixana people in Roraima use the substance as a contraceptive. The Canadian lab hopes to develop a product that will fight tumors and AIDS. Biolink also wants to patent cumaniol, a substance extracted from a poison made from wild manioc that is used to catch fish in the Amazon. The new product, according to the Canadian company, might be used to stop the heart during delicate surgeries.

Toxin of the Amazon frog Epipedobates tricolor
An other interesting example is the case of Epibatidine, published in November 1998 by the NGO "Acción Ecológica" from Ecuador: Researchers of the Abbot laboratory, one of the giants in the pharmaceutical sector, announced the synthesis of a new composition, made from the toxin found in the skin of the Amazon frog, Epipedobates tricolor. According to the scientists, the drug might become the first of a row of analgesics for pain, able to substitute the opium derivates. But the frog's poison is used traditionally by indigenous people in the rain forest. The scientists caught - illegally - 750 frogs of the threatened species, without the necessary permission. The organization "Acción Ecologica" requires the revocation of the patent: "The patent is an act of aggression against our national sovereignty and our biological diversity."

Venezuela - research in Yanomami land
In 1999 the Department of Environment of Venezuela signed a contract with the university of Zurich, in which the university is authorized to search for interesting plants in the areas of the Yanomami. The contract envisages payments directly to the Yanomani. However, the Yanomani themselves were not asked for agreement. The speaker of the "Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon State" (ORIPA) therefore rejected the treaty: "It affects us because they are planning to patent our knowledge, and the benefits that were supposed to get from this are not clear. This knowledge, this information, is the collective property of our peoples, not the property of a foreign company." (El Nacional, Caracas, Venezuela, 26.1.1999)


Bibliography

  • Green Piracy, by Alessandra Dalevi, BRAZZIL July 1997
  • Gene, Patente und die Life Industry", Greenpeace Germany 2000

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