Recent Brazilian Federal Court Decision Involving Genetic Heritage and Traditional Knowledge
Lisa Mueller, National Law Review, 27 June 2013

CHICAGO, USA: This article reviews a decision delivered on 22 May 2013 by the Federal Court from the State of Acre in Brazil involving alleged illegal access to genetic resources and traditional knowledge. The Federal Public Ministry (FPM) filed a civil lawsuit against five companies that had developed soaps containing an oil having emollient properties obtained from the seed of a palm tree called “murumuru.”  Astrocaryum murumuru bears edible fruits and is native to the Amazon Rainforest. Murumuru butter extracted from the seeds may be used as a moisturizer. The FPM alleged that the use of moisturizing oils derived from murumuru is a part of the genetic heritage and associated traditional knowledge of the Ashaninka people (an indigenous group of people living in the rainforests of Peru and in the State of Acre Brazil). The Federal Judge ruled that there was no violation of the national legislation (Brazilian Provisional Measure No. 2.186-16 of August 23, 2001) because several of the defendant companies had not carried out any scientific research or technological development related to the genetic heritage that might be characterized as “access.”  The Judge reasoned that there had been no illegal access to genetic heritage or associated traditional knowledge since: the information and properties of murumuru were obtained from scientific documents published during the 1940s (in other words, this information was in the public domain); one of the companies obtained an authorization for accessing murumuru from another region, the State of Amazonas; and another company obtained murumuru oil from a manufacturer which has obtained such oil from the Ashaninka. Read the article …