EU ponders biopiracy law to protect indigenous people
EurActiv, 26 April 2013

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: A European Commission proposal for an EU regulation on access and benefit-sharing (ABS) is currently debated by the European Parliament. Rapporteur and Green MEP Sandrine Bélier cited as an example of ABS a German pharmaceutical company’s dealings in South Africa: Pelargonium sidoides, a variety of geranium known for its antimicrobial and expectorant qualities, has been used traditionally by indigenous communities in South Africa for centuries to treat bronchitis and other respiratory diseases.  It also stimulates the nervous system, so has been used in the treatment of AIDS and tuberculosis. In 2000, the German company Schwabe made significant profits on Umckaloabo, a product derived from the geranium, without compensating local communities. It then filed patents claiming exclusive rights to the medical use of the plant. But in 2010 the patents were cancelled following appeals from the African Centre for Biosafety in South Africa and the Bern Declaration in Switzerland, calling the patents “an illegitimate and illegal monopolization of genetic resources derived from traditional knowledge and a stark opposition to the Convention on Biodiversity.” Bélier told EurActiv the new regulation should help protect biodiversity and ensure that indigenous and local communities are adequately compensated for their resource and their traditional know-how. Read the article … Download the proposed regulation [pdf] … Read an interview with Sandrine Bélier …

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