Re: NANFA-- [nia-net] New Brazilian law on genetic resources

Bruce Stallsmith (
Tue, 08 Aug 2000 16:20:59 EDT

Affluent Americans will most likely think this a crock, because "you can't
do that here". The Brazilians have a very different view of biological
prospecting based on history. They feel, rightly or wrongly, that they've
been ripped off in the past and they don't want to facilitate future
ripoffs. The major sore spot with them was rubber trees, native to Amazonia.
Brazil tried to keep them as an exclusive resource through nasty laws, and
some Brits were able to eventually smuggle out a tree or two and establish
rubber plantations in Malaysia that drove down the price of rubber and
ruined Brazil's economy for a while. This proves Jeff's point, of course,
about government intervention being ultimately ineffectual.

Now, Brazil and other developing countries rightly figure that they're
sitting on possibly valuable resources and want a piece of the action. The
key thing here is that with plants, especially, many (most?) of them aren't
know to science, and await organized research & development. Brazil is going
about this with a sledgehammer for a tool, interfering with the export of
ALL biological tissues. It's a protectionist operation that will ultimately
fail, by holding research hostage to economics and national pride.

Maybe a silver lining in this cloud is that it places a tangible valuation
on biodiversity that can be more directly addressed.

--Bruce Stallsmith
The Lawnmower City, AL

>What a crock!
>It's one thing when someone creates a new breed of lifeform thru
>hybridization or genetic engineering. Or creates a new machine or writes a
>or a song. But naturally evolved "genetic resources" belong to everyone and
>should be accessable to all people to employ their creativity and talents
>utilize and develop. It would be injustice for governments to claim
>property rights to indigenous species and then sell them off to the highest
>bidder - ie transnational mega-corporations who will create monopolies on
>products developed there from. Then the pharmacutical industries will be
>able to
>develop all these miriacle drugs but they will be priced beyond what the
>people can afford while they reap enormous profits from natural products
>they did nothing to create.
>There will be lots of problems with enforcing these laws.
>First of all the US has been throwing billions of dollars at drug
>traffiking for
>over a decade and the the problem refuses to abate. With armies of agents
>planes and drug sniffing dogs the stuff gets to the streets in obscene
>quantities. So the police and DEA people find they cannot stop it because
>are too many constitutional obstacles like the 4th Amendment in the way so
>come to us and ask us to give up more of our liberties in order to make it
>for them to do their job.

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