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Intellectual Property Rights, Genetical Resources and Traditional Knowledge: An Approach from the Perspective of Megadiverse Countries

Aírton Guilherme Berger Filho

elni Review 2010, Issue 2,  pp. 59-63.

In recent years, the press has reported on diverse cases of research, appropriation and commercialization by multinational companies of medicines, agricultural seeds and other by-products of biodiversity, without respect for the rights of the native populations and the local communities regarding their territory, their cultural and environmental goods. This practice, known as biopiracy, seeks to obtain the rights of intellectual property, mainly so as to acquire the patent of products and processes derived from research and innovations on the uses of biological diversity which is often guided by study of traditional knowledge. From the “ethnobioprospecting” concept used to explore biological information based on traditional knowledge, scientists have facilitated the discovery of new active principles and new species in megadiverse regions, reducing the time and the costs of obtaining new substances and products. There are high expectations about the uses that could be made of the exploitation of genetic diversity, bearing in mind that most biodiversity is barely studied or known. 
As a result there have been intense debates in law and in international relations about the access and intellectual appropriation of biodiversity, and the related traditional knowledge. It is considered a matter of a geopolitical onslaught among, on the one hand, the developed countries, rich in science and technology, with a financial, though poor, abundance of resources in genetic and cultural diversity, and, on the other hand, the developing countries, with scarce technological, scientific, and financial resources, but with the vast majority of the genetic resources and its associated traditional knowledge.

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