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Conserving Biodiversity and Rewarding

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M:\Biotechnology\ISTS Files\TWAS Workshop Suggested Readings\Gupta_210999.Doc 1 Conserving Biodiversity and Rewarding Associated Knowledge and Innovation Systems: Honey Bee Perspective1 Prof Anil K Gupta2 Economic development in different regions has often been accompanied by a decline in biodiversity. Biotechnology and other value adding technologies offer a possibility of valorizing biodiversity. But the distribution of the gains among different stakeholders generated through added value obviously is the function of institutional arrangements. The kind of ethical practices followed by bioprospectors may determine whether or not the benefits of biotechnological products are shared fairly among different stakeholders. The need for low transaction cost system is obvious and yet most global dialogues on intellectual property rights have not yet embarked upon such a system. In the forthcoming review of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a discussion on Article 23 providing for negotiations on the establishment of multi lateral system of notification and registration of geographical indications in the context of wines is proposed. There is no reason why such a discussion should be restricted only to the wines and not include traditional knowledge as well as contemporary innovations of local communities and individuals. There are many other policy and institutional modifications that are called for in the IPR laws. It is not my argument that removing the imperfections in IPR regime will by itself generate economic rewards and social esteem for local knowledge rich economically poor people. I realize that the role of non-monetary incentives may be sometime more important. However, the biotechnology, drug, and other value adding industries have yet not shown any explicit interest as a stakeholder in generating models of voluntary benefit sharing. Does it imply that they believe that future gains in biotechnological products may be made only on the basis of public domain biodiversity? The empowerment of local knowledge experts will require building bridges between the excellence in formal and informal science. Reform of TRIPS thus is a process involving reform of knowledge producing and networking institutions in any society. 1 Paper presented at First Commonwealth Science Forum – Access, Bioprospecting, Intellectual Property Rights and Benefit Sharing and the Commonwealth, Goa, 23-25 September 1999. This is a considerably revised and expanded version of the paper presented at World Trade Forum, Bern, August 27-29, 1999. 2 Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad 380015, India, and Coordinator SRISTI and Editor, Honey Bee, [email protected] http://www.iimahd.ernet.in/~anilg/ Http://www.sristi.org fax 91 79 6427896 Phone (o) 91 79 6407241M:\Biotechnology\ISTS Files\TWAS Workshop Suggested Readings\Gupta_210999.Doc 2 Introduction: The asymmetry in rights and responsibilities of those who produce knowledge particularly in informal sector and those who valorize it (in formal sector) has become one of the most serious contentious issues. I will begin with four case lets to illustrate the interface between the traditional and contemporary knowledge and global trade. I will then demonstrate that there are possibilities of securing the interests of grassroots innovators and traditional communities within the global trade regime provided the ethics of extraction can be factored in the calculation of respective incentives or disincentives for cooperation among different stakeholders. To do so, some of the fast emerging and expanding technologies like Information Communication Technologies( ICTs) will have to be adapted to the needs of local communities and individual grassroots innovators. Lastly, I will summarize the policy changes that need to be negotiated in the next round of review of TRIPS and some other trade agreements having bearing on incentives for local innovations and growth of traditional knowledge and institutions. Part One: Lessons from what has happened Case I: The intellectual property in herbal products: Why has the center of the world moved eastward? The import of the fact that almost forty five per cent of the herbal patents in USPTO till 1998 were owned by Chinese, another twenty per cent by Japanese and about sixteen per cent by Russians has not been properly appreciated3. Chinese leadership in herbal products proves that with the right kind of incentives, even a developing country can achieve global pre eminence. Not only that, the first hundred assignees were individuals and not corporations. The notion that R&D by small scale firms or individual scientists cannot generate globally valuable intellectual property is not true. It is said that one in every five north Americans has used Chinese medicine. The traditional Chinese medicine has succeeded in capturing global markets through available trade routes. How has it happened? Whether this is a replicable model? To what extent has this trade helped the local communities and individual herbalists in China? Is there a reason to hope that the erosion of traditional knowledge will be stemmed because of the emergence of market and valorization of the knowledge? May be answers to many of these questions may not be positive. And yet, simply because not all problems have been solved, the example should not deter us from solving at least some problems to begin with. Caution has to be exercised that if those stakeholders whose problems get solved first (for instance, traders or petty manufacturers), they should not become complacent towards solving the problem of other stake holders such as herbalists, local communities, conservators of biodiversity in wild as well as domesticated domains. 3 I am grateful to Keith Richardson of Derwent Pharmaceutical data base for sharing this data with me.M:\Biotechnology\ISTS Files\TWAS Workshop Suggested Readings\Gupta_210999.Doc 3Case II: Genetic Resources Recognition Fund at UC, Davis: Viability of voluntary sharing of benefits4 When Pamela Ronald, a pathologist at UC, Davis cloned a gene which conferred resistance to a major disease of rice i.e. blast and licensed it to two companies, she was keen to find out an ethical way of sharing benefits that might arise from commercialization of the


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