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August 28, 2007

What an Expansive Intepretation of “Property” Gets You [11:53 am]

“Biopiracy,” among other things, including a policy run amok: As Brazil Defends Its Bounty, Rules Ensnare Scientists

Fears of biopiracy, loosely defined as any unauthorized acquisition or transport of genetic material or live flora and fauna, are deep and longstanding in Brazil. Nearly a century ago, for example, the Amazon rubber boom collapsed after Sir Henry Wickham, a British botanist and explorer, spirited rubber seeds out of Brazil and sent them to colonies in Ceylon and Malaya (now Sri Lanka and Malaysia), which quickly dominated the international market.

In the 1970s, the Squibb pharmaceutical company used venom from the Brazilian arrowhead viper to help develop captopril, used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure, without payment of the royalties Brazilians think are due them. And more recently, Brazilian Indian tribes have complained that samples of their blood, taken under circumstances they say were unethical, were being used in genetic research around the world.

Brazil has in recent years passed legislation to curb such practices. National sentiment favors the laws, but scientists complain that they go too far, are too vague, confer too much power on authorities who have no scientific knowledge and have created a presumption that every researcher is engaged in biopiracy.

Hey, if you wanna live by the sword, you gotta expect you’ll die by the sword.

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