BIOPIRACY IN THE AMAZON - INTRODUCTION
Biopiracy means not only the smuggling
of diverse forms of flora and fauna, but mainly the appropriation and
monopolization of traditional population's knowledge and biological resources.
Biopiracy causes the loss of control of traditional populations over their
resources. In the Amazon region this is not a new phenomenon!
This joint knowledge must not be seen as a commodity that can be sold
In the last years, through the advance of biotechnology, the facilitating
of registering international trademarks and patents as well as international
agreements on intellectual property, such as TRIPs,
the possibilities of such exploitation have multiplied.
However, there are also efforts to revert this
In 1992, during Eco-92 in Rio de Janeiro, the Convention
on Biological Diversity was signed. The Convention aims,
among others, at the regulation of access to biological resources
and at sharing in a fair and equitable way the results of research
and development and the benefits arising from the commercial utilization
of genetic resources with the communities.
In 1995, Senator Marina Silva
(from 2003 on, Minister of Environment of Brazil) presented a law
project to create legal mechanisms for practical arrangements according
to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
In December 2001, shamans of various indigenous
peoples from Brazil formulated the Letter from São
Luis do Maranhão, an important document for the World
Intellectual Property Organization, questioning all forms of patents
that derive from traditional knowledge.
In may of 2002, ten years after Eco-92, the workshop
took place in Rio Branco, Acre. The event was organized by the international
NGO GRAIN in partnership with the NGO GTA-Acre. 100 representatives
of farmers, fishermen, indigenous people, extrativists, craftsmen
and NGOs of 32 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, participated
in this event. They formulated the "Commitment
of Rio Branco
", alerting the world on the serious threat
of biopiracy and requiring, among others, that life patents and any
form of intellectual property on biodiversity and traditional knowledge
should be banned.
However, these efforts seem shy, compared to the greed
of the speculators and multinational companies that continue to take over
and monopolize the wealth of the Amazon.
Amazonlink.org has been establishing contacts between
rural producers in the Amazon and buyers of sustainable products abroad.
In the course of these activities we encountered obstacles due to trademarks
and patents on certain products. These products are considered great potentials
for the sustainable development of the Amazon region. The finding of these
facts led us to the publication of these pages.
The objectives of these pages are:
- To alert the public about some new cases of patents and trademarks,
such as Cupuaçu, Andiroba and Copaíba. We consider these
cases worrisome because of their negative impacts on the traditional
communities commercial activities, and the sustainable development
of the Amazon region. The case is the patent of Ayahuasca is emphasized
because it offends the cultural identity of indigenous peoples in
- To create strong alliances of farmers and indigenous peoples, in
the fight against misappropriation and monopolization of their resources
and knowledge, as well as the fight against the colonial exploration
of biological diversity of the Amazon.
- To contribute to more transparency in the discussion about biopiracy,
that extends from vague suspicions to conspiracy theories, many times