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 …
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
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,
- Green Piracy, by Alessandra Dalevi, BRAZZIL July
- Gene, Patente und die Life Industry", Greenpeace