Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Peru fights biopiracy

An interesting thing is happenning in Peru. Peru's government is fighting against biopiracy by showing to other countries patent offices that pending patents were developed using the traditional knowledge of Peruvians.

This is a good trend. Biopiracy is a very serious problem. What many big companies, mostly based in the US and Europe, are doing is going into developing countries and stealing (and I think that is probably too light a word) their knowledge and then getting patents with this knowledge. The most criminal aspect of this is that often the local population are now preventing from using this knowledge. Meanwhile, the company gets huge profits, none of which go to the local people. What is also disturbing is that this knowledge often comes from some of the most biodiverse regions in the world.

There are other related issues, which are directly or indirectly related to biopiracy. Vaccines and drugs which are tied up in patents so they are either not available or too expensive. Genetically modified organisms (GMO's) which are sold with the provision that the seeds cannot be reused, make poor farmers purchase more seeds, rather than using their own stock.

So the action by the Peruvian government is very welcome. I can only hope that more governments will follow their lead.

I also must add, however, that there is some hypocrisy to this announcement. The government of Peru has done a number of bad decisions with respect to the peoples of the Amazonia. The president has even made the remark that some tribes "do not exist".