December 2008

24th session of the Genetic Resources Policy Committee of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

Bioversity International, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

10 September – 12 September 2008 (Rome, Italy)


Among other items, the committee revised the draft policy of the CGIAR Centres on intellectual assets, which is included as Appendix 3 to the minutes. “Intellectual assets” refers to all products of the Centres’ research and development activities, including, but not limited to: improved germplasm, technologies, software, information, publications, vaccines, databases, methodologies and know-how. It is noted that “The Centres should take action, as appropriate, to pre-empt intellectual property claims over their intellectual assets by others without the Centres’ authorization. The Centres shall abide by the ‘CGIAR’s Ethical Principles Relating to Genetic Resources,’ and shall respect the rights of traditional knowledge holders by seeking their prior informed consent for the documentation, use and publication of information associated with their traditional knowledge, consistent with national and international law.”


The committee also addressed a draft preface to the draft guidelines for traditional knowledge practices, which were approved by its 23rd session. Both the guidelines and the preface are attached as Appendix 4 to the minutes. The draft guidelines for the acquisition and use of TK by CGIAR scientists include sections on prior informed consent, publishing TK, giving back research results, access and benefit-sharing, and active TK protection efforts. Download the minutes [pdf] …


Mexico Outlines Results and Goals from Summit in Brazil, 22 December 2008


SAUIPE, BAHIA, BRAZIL: The Heads of State and Government of Latin American and Caribbean countries, realizing the historical significance of this first Summit for the Unity of the Region, met in Salvador, Bahía, Brazil on December 16 and 17, 2008, to reinforce regional integration and establish effective commitments involving joint action to promote the sustainable development of their nations … They expressed their support of the adoption, in 2010, of an international, legally binding regime on access to and the distribution of benefits derived from the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity, according to national legislation. Read the article …

New Berry-Based Natural Sweetener “Brazzein” to Hit the Market in 2009, 22 December 2008


TAIPEI, TAIWAN, CHINA: We’ve all heard about stevia, agave nectar, brown rice syrup and other natural sweeteners, but now a new sweetener derived from a West African berry has been successfully synthesized in a form compatible with mass production, and the company Natur Research Ingredients expects to make it commercially available between late 2008 and mid-2009. The sweetener brazzein, to be marketed under the brand name Cweet, is a protein derived from the berry of the West African plant oubli (Pentadiplandra brazzeana Baillon). It has long been used as a food source by both humans and animals (particularly apes) in the region, and was first synthesized into a sugar alternative in 1994 by researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison … Because the University of Wisconsin used an artificial process to extract the brazzein sweetener from oubli berries, it was able to obtain patents over the sweetener itself. No credit was given or payment made to the indigenous Africans who had used the sweetener for centuries, drawing accusations that the university had engaged in “biopiracy,” stealing ancestral knowledge for private profit. The university retains several patents over the ingredient brazzein. In a reversal of the university’s claim that brazzein is an invented ingredient, Natur says that its sweetener is natural. It has not yet disclosed information regarding the process used to extract the sweetener or any synthetic ingredients that might be used. Read the article …

Bush medicine database may hold key to more effective treatments

Insciences, 21 December 2008


BASEL, SWITZERLAND: Australian scientists are tapping into the traditional knowledge of Aboriginal Elders to compile a database of medicinal plants that may hold the key to more effective antibacterial and antifungal treatments.Researchers from Macquarie University’s Indigenous Bioresources Research Group (IBRG) have worked closely with the Yaegl people in northern NSW to document their medicinal plant knowledge, and have also begun phase two of their study – examining the chemical and biological properties of the plants. Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemist Associate Professor Joanne Jamie said the research aim was to conserve customary Aboriginal knowledge, and apply this to the discovery of new evidence-based alternative medicines … Central to the success of the bush medicine research is the strong relationship between the researchers and the Elders, which has been forged over many years and has culminated in a collaborative partnership agreement to work together on the study. Read the article …

Elaborating policy options for farmers’ rights

Community Technology Development Trust (Zimbabwe) and Centre for Plant Genetic Resources (the Netherlands), November 2008


This electronic group discusses possibilities to create legal space for farmers to continue their work as custodians and developers of on-farm crop diversity, in the context of existing international and national legislation. The discussion is running until 31 March 2009. The discussion …

Cultural Transmission of Traditional Knowledge in two populations of North-western Patagonia

Cecilia Eyssartier, Ana H Ladio and Mariana Lozada, Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2008, 4:23. doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-4-25


In this study, the authors have investigated the cultural transmission of two types of traditional plant knowledge in two communities of North-western Patagonia, Argentina. In the Pilcaniyeu community, they studied the transmission of traditional knowledge related to horticultural practices in home-gardens, greenhouses and gardens; while in the community of Cuyin Manzano, they studied wild plant gathering customs. The study concludes that given the remarkable acculturation processes occurring at present in rural communities of Northwestern Patagonia, it might be of vital importance to document traditional knowledge of ancient practices. Moreover, it could be interesting to share results with both populations in order to encourage participatory activities within the communities which could enhance traditional knowledge horizontal transmission, particularly among elder adults and youngsters. Download the study [provisional pdf] …

International Funders for Indigenous Peoples 7th Annual Conference: Setting the Agenda for the Future of Indigenous Philanthropy

3 April – 5 April 2009 (Santa Fe, New Mexico, US)


The theme for IFIP’s annual conference is “Fostering local to global partnerships: setting the agenda for the future of indigenous philanthropy.” The sessions of this year’s conference will cover: climate change and water issues; indigenous rights, sovereignty and self determination; and strengthening indigenous philanthropy. Download the conference announcement [doc] …

Next Page »