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Higher category: Property and Property law
Bioprospecting is the process of discovery and commercialization of new products based on biological resources. These resources or compounds can be important for and useful in many fields, including pharmaceuticals, agriculture, bioremediation, and nanotechnology, among others.Between 1981-2010, one third of all small molecule new chemical entities approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were either natural products or compounds derived from natural products. Despite indigenous knowledge being intuitively helpful, bioprospecting has only recently begun to incorporate such knowledge in focusing screening efforts for bioactive compounds.
Bioprospecting may involve biopiracy, the exploitative appropriation of indigenous forms of knowledge by commercial actors, and can include the patenting of already widely used natural resources, such as plant varieties, by commercial entities.
The term biopiracy was coined by Pat Mooney,to describe a practice in which indigenous knowledge of nature, originating with indigenous peoples, is used by others for profit, without authorization or compensation to the indigenous people themselves. For example, when bioprospectors draw on indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants which is later patented by medical companies without recognizing the fact that the knowledge is not new or invented by the patenter, this deprives the indigenous community of their potential rights to the commercial product derived from the technology that they themselves had developed. Critics of this practice, such as Greenpeace, claim these practices contribute to inequality between developing countries rich in biodiversity, and developed countries hosting biotech firms.
In the 1990s many large pharmaceutical and drug discovery companies responded to charges of biopiracy by ceasing work on natural products, turning to combinatorial chemistry to develop novel compounds.
The Maya ICBG bioprospecting controversy took place in 1999–2000, when the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group led by ethnobiologist Brent Berlin was accused of being engaged in unethical forms of bioprospecting by several NGOs and indigenous organizations. The ICBG aimed to document the biodiversity of Chiapas, Mexico and the ethnobotanical knowledge of the indigenous Maya people – in order to ascertain whether there were possibilities of developing medical products based on any of the plants used by the indigenous groups.
The Maya ICBG case was among the first to draw attention to the problems of distinguishing between benign forms of bioprospecting and unethical biopiracy, and to the difficulties of securing community participation and prior informed consent for would-be bioprospectors.
The rosy periwinkle case dates from the 1950s. The rosy periwinkle, while native to Madagascar, had been widely introduced into other tropical countries around the world well before the discovery of vincristine. Different countries are reported as having acquired different beliefs about the medical properties of the plant.This meant that researchers could obtain local knowledge from one country and plant samples from another. The use of the plant for diabetes was the original stimulus for research. Effectiveness in the treatment of both Hodgkin's Disease and leukemia were discovered instead. The Hodgkin's lymphoma chemotherapeutic drug vinblastine is derivable from the rosy periwinkle.
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and W. R. Grace and Company received a European patent on methods of controlling fungal infections in plants using a composition that included extracts from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which grows throughout India and Nepal.In 2000 the patent was successfully opposed by several groups from EU and India including the EU Green Party, Vandana Shiva, and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) on the basis that the fungicidal activity of neem extract had long been known in Indian traditional medicine. WR Grace appealed and lost in 2005.
The Enola bean is a variety of Mexican yellow bean, so called after the wife of the man who patented it in 1999. [ citation needed ]The allegedly distinguishing feature of the variety is seeds of a specific shade of yellow. The patent-holder subsequently sued a large number of importers of Mexican yellow beans with the following result: "...export sales immediately dropped over 90% among importers that had been selling these beans for years, causing economic damage to more than 22,000 farmers in northern Mexico who depended on sales of this bean." A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the farmers, and on April 14, 2005 the US-PTO ruled in favor of the farmers. An appeal was heard on 16 January 2008, and the patent was revoked in May 2008. A later appeal to the court against the revocation was unsuccessful as of October 2, 2008.
In 2000, the US corporation RiceTec (a subsidiary of RiceTec AG of Liechtenstein) attempted to patent certain hybrids of basmati rice and semidwarf long-grain rice.The Indian government intervened and several claims of the patent were invalidated.
Hoodia , a succulent plant, originates from the Kalahari Desert of South Africa. For generations it has been known to the traditionally living San people as an appetite suppressant. In 1996 South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research began working with companies, including Unilever, to develop dietary supplements based on hoodia.Originally the San people were not scheduled to receive any benefits from the commercialization of their traditional knowledge, but in 2003 the South African San Council made an agreement with CSIR in which they would receive from 6 to 8% of the revenue from the sale of Hoodia products.
In 2008 after having invested €20 million in R&D on hoodia as a potential ingredient in dietary supplements for weight loss, Unilever terminated the project because their clinical studies did not show that hoodia was safe and effective enough to bring to market.
The following is a selection of some of the further cases in recent biopiracy studies. Most of them do not relate to traditional medicines.
One common misunderstanding is that pharmaceutical companies patent the plants they collect. While obtaining a patent on a naturally occurring organism as previously known or used is not possible, patents may be taken out on specific chemicals isolated or developed from plants. Often these patents are obtained with a stated and researched use of those chemicals.[ citation needed ] Generally the existence, structure and synthesis of those compounds is not a part of the indigenous medical knowledge that led researchers to analyze the plant in the first place. As a result, even if the indigenous medical knowledge is taken as prior art, that knowledge does not by itself make the active chemical compound "obvious," which is the standard applied under patent law.
In the United States, patent law can be used to protect "isolated and purified" compounds – even, in one instance, a new chemical element (see USP 3,156,523). In 1873, Louis Pasteur patented a "yeast" which was "free from disease" (patent #141072). Patents covering biological inventions have been treated similarly. In the 1980 case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty , the Supreme Court upheld a patent on a bacterium that had been genetically modified to consume petroleum, reasoning that U.S. law permits patents on "anything under the sun that is made by man." The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has observed that "a patent on a gene covers the isolated and purified gene but does not cover the gene as it occurs in nature".
Also possible under US law is patenting a cultivar, a new variety of an existing organism. The patent on the enola bean (now revoked) was an example of this sort of patent. The intellectual property laws of the US also recognize plant breeders' rights under the Plant Variety Protection Act, 7 U.S.C. §§ 2321–2582.
The CBD came into force in 1993. It secured rights to control access to genetic resources for the countries in which those resources are located. One objective of the CBD is to enable lesser-developed countries to better benefit from their resources and traditional knowledge. Under the rules of the CBD, bioprospectors are required to obtain informed consent to access such resources, and must share any benefits with the biodiversity-rich country. [ citation needed ] The CBD has been ratified by all countries in the world except for Andorra, Holy See and United States.[ citation needed ] See also the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and the 2001 International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture .However, some critics believe that the CBD has failed to establish appropriate regulations to prevent biopiracy. Others claim that the main problem is the failure of national governments to pass appropriate laws implementing the provisions of the CBD. The Nagoya Protocol to the CBD (negotiated in 2010, expected to come into force in 2014) will provide further regulations.
The requirements for bioprospecting as set by CBD has created a new branch of international patent and trade law [ citation needed ] : bioprospecting contracts. Bioprospecting contracts lay down the rules, between researchers and countries, of benefit sharing and can bring royalties to lesser-developed countries. However, although these contracts are based on prior informed consent and compensation (unlike biopiracy), every owner or carrier of an indigenous knowledge and resources are not always consulted or compensated, as it would be difficult to ensure every individual is included. Because of this, some have proposed that the indigenous or other communities form a type of representative micro-government that would negotiate with researchers to form contracts in such a way that the community benefits from the arrangements. Unethical bioprospecting contracts (as distinct from ethical ones) can be viewed as a new form of biopiracy.
An example of a bioprospecting contract is the agreement between Merck and INBio of Costa Rica.
Due to previous cases of biopiracy and to prevent further cases, the Government of India has converted traditional Indian medicinal information from ancient manuscripts and other resources into an electronic resource; this resulted in the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library in 2001.The texts are being recorded from Tamil, Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian and Arabic; made available to patent offices in English, German, French, Japanese and Spanish. The aim is to protect India's heritage from being exploited by foreign companies. Hundreds of yoga poses are also kept in the collection. The library has also signed agreements with leading international patent offices such as European Patent Office (EPO), United Kingdom Trademark & Patent Office (UKTPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office to protect traditional knowledge from biopiracy as it allows patent examiners at International Patent Offices to access TKDL databases for patent search and examination purposes.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty. The Convention has three main goals including: the conservation of biological diversity ; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
Azadirachta indica, commonly known as neem, nimtree or Indian lilac, is a tree in the mahogany family Meliaceae. It is one of two species in the genus Azadirachta, and is native to the Indian subcontinent. It is typically grown in tropical and semi-tropical regions. Neem trees also grow in islands located in the southern part of Iran. Its fruits and seeds are the source of neem oil.
Vandana Shiva is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, and anti-globalization author. Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than twenty books.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, is a comprehensive international agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world's plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), the fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from its use, as well as the recognition of farmers' rights. It was signed in 2001 in Madrid, and entered into force on 29 June 2004.
Hoodia is a genus of flowering plants in the family Apocynaceae, under the subfamily Asclepiadoideae, native to Southern Africa.
The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants or UPOV is a non-United Nations sui generis intergovernmental organization with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The current Secretary-General of UPOV is Francis Gurry. The expression UPOV Convention also refers to one of the three international legal instruments that relate to the Union, namely the 1991 Act of the UPOV Convention, 1978 Act of the UPOV Convention and 1961 Act of the UPOV Convention with Amendments of 1972
Agricultural biodiversity is a sub-set of general biodiversity. Otherwise known as agrobiodiversity, agricultural biodiversity is a broad term that includes "the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels that sustain the ecosystem structures, functions and processes in and around production systems, and that provide food and non-food agricultural products.” Created and managed by farmers, pastoralists, fishers and forest dwellers, agrobiodiversity provides stability, adaptability and resilience and constitutes a key element of the livelihood strategies of rural communities throughout the world. Agrobiodiversity is central to sustainable food systems and sustainable diets. The use of agricultural biodiversity can contribute to food security, nutrition security, and livelihood security, and it is critical for climate adaptation and climate mitigation.
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research abbreviated as CSIR was established by the Government of India in September 1942 as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.
Overton Brent Berlin is an American anthropologist, most noted for his work with linguist Paul Kay on color, and his ethnobiological research among the Maya of Chiapas, Mexico.
Traditional knowledge, indigenous knowledge and local knowledge generally refer to knowledge systems embedded in the cultural traditions of regional, indigenous, or local communities. Traditional knowledge includes types of knowledge about traditional technologies of subsistence, midwifery, ethnobotany and ecological knowledge, traditional medicine, celestial navigation, ethnoastronomy, climate, and others. These kinds of knowledge, crucial for subsistence and survival, are generally based on accumulations of empirical observation and on interaction with the environment.
The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is an Indian digital knowledge repository of the traditional knowledge, especially about medicinal plants and formulations used in Indian systems of medicine. Set up in 2001, as a collaboration between the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the MINISTRY OF AYUSH the objective of the library is to protect the ancient and traditional knowledge of the country from exploitation through biopiracy and unethical patents, by documenting it electronically and classifying it as per international patent classification systems. Apart from that, the non-patent database serves to foster modern research based on traditional knowledge, as it simplifies access to this vast knowledge of remedies or practices.
Navdanya is an Indian-based non-governmental organisation which promotes biodiversity conservation, biodiversity, organic farming, the rights of farmers, and the process of seed saving. One of Navdanya's founders, and outspoken members, is Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist, physicist, and author. Navdanya began in 1984 as a program of the Research Foundation for science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE), a participatory research initiative founded by the environmentalist Vandana Shiva, to provide direction and support to environmental activism. "Navdanya" means "nine crops" that represent India's collective source of food security.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is South Africa's central and premier scientific research and development organisation. It was established by an act of parliament in 1945 and is situated on its own campus in the city of Pretoria. It is the largest research and development (R&D) organisation in Africa and accounts for about 10% of the entire African R&D budget. It has a staff of approximately 3,000 technical and scientific researchers, often working in multi-disciplinary teams.
The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity, also known as the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is a 2010 supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Its aim is the implementation of one of the three objectives of the CBD: the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. However, there are concerns that the added bureaucracy and legislation will, overall, be damaging to the monitoring and collection of biodiversity, to conservation, to the international response to infectious diseases, and to research.
International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups is a program under National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and USAID established in 1993 to promote collaborative research between American universities and research institutions in countries that harbor unique genetic resource in the form of biodiversity - the practice known as bioprospecting. The basic aim of the program is to benefit both the host community and the global scientific community by discovering and researching the possibilities for new solutions to human health problems based on previously unexplored genetic resources. It therefore seeks to conserve biodiversity, and to foment, encourage and support sustainable practices of usage of biological resources. Groups are headed by a principal investigator who coordinates the efforts of the research consortium which often has branches in the US and the host country as well as in the countries of other third party institutions. There are currently International Cooperative Biodiversity groups operating in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Papua-New Guinea. The Maya ICBG, a group dedicated to collecting the ethnobiological knowledge of the Maya population of Chiapas, Mexico led by Dr. Brent Berlin was closed in 2001 after two years of funding after accusations of having failed to obtain prior informed consent.
The Maya ICBG bioprospecting controversy took place in 1999–2000, when the International Cooperative Biodiversity Group led by ethnobiologist Dr. Brent Berlin was accused of engaging in unethical forms of bioprospecting (biopiracy) by several NGOs and indigenous organizations. The ICBG had as its aim to document the biodiversity of Chiapas, Mexico and the ethnobotanical knowledge of the indigenous Maya people – to ascertain whether there were possibilities of developing medical products based on any of the plants used by the indigenous groups.
The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 is an Act of the Parliament of India for preservation of biological diversity in India, and provides mechanism for equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of traditional biological resources and knowledge. The Act was enacted to meet the obligations under Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which India is a party.
An Access and Benefit Sharing Agreement (ABSA) is an agreement that defines the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. ABSAs typically arise in relation to bioprospecting where indigenous knowledge is used to focus screening efforts for commercially valuable genetic and biochemical resources. ABSAs recognise that bioprospecting frequently relies on indigenous or traditional knowledge, and that people or communities who hold such knowledge are entitled to a share of benefits arising from its commercial utilization.
Sunil Kumar Verma, is an Indian biologist and as of January 2018, a principal scientist at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India. Verma is primarily known for his contributions to the development of "universal primer technology", a first generation DNA barcoding method, that can identify any bird, fish, reptile or mammal from a small biological sample, and satisfy legal evidence requirements in a court of law. This technology has revitalised the field of wildlife forensics and is now routinely used across India to provide a species identification service in cases of wildlife crime. This approach of species identification is now known as "DNA barcoding" across the world.
Plant genetic resources are plant genetic materials of actual or potential value. They describe the variability within plants that comes from human and natural selection over millennia. Their intrinsic value mainly concerns agricultural crops.
CBD stating that the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources should be shared in a fair and equitable way (Rau, 2010)