[Fwd: [PermacultureUK] - Traditional knowledge - British knowledge ? Is there an indigenous (ecological) population and 'expertise' in Britain ?]
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Subject: [PermacultureUK] - Traditional knowledge - British knowledge ?
Is there an indigenous (ecological) population and 'expertise' in Britain ?
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2004 07:36:17 +0000
From: permaculture.uk@... ("JamieSaunders")
Traditional knowledge 'in peril'
By Alex Kirby BBC News Online environment correspondent
Indigenous peoples' knowledge is at risk of exploitation
Forest lore and knowledge passed down over generations by indigenous
peoples is open for exploitation by anyone, the United Nations
University believes. It says a loophole in international law on
intellectual property rights is an affront to traditional groups'
culture. As it stands, the law says indigenous peoples keen to protect
their secrets have to put them in the public domain. The UN researchers
say the law amounts to a catch-22 trap, which allows the
unscrupulous to exploit the knowledge. They outline their concerns in a
report, The Role Of Registers And Databases In The Protection Of
Traditional Knowledge, which is being launched at a
meeting in Malaysia of the countries which support the UN Convention on
The knowledge the report covers includes commercially valuable
understanding, developed over centuries of the medicinal and other uses
of plants. The problem arises when regulators from national patent
offices have to decide whether a new product which a company wants to
patent really is new, or is based on traditional knowledge.
To do this, they require free access to the knowledge itself. But in
many indigenous cultures it is highly guarded.
The knowledge is often passed down from one generation to the next
through codes of conduct and customary law, frequently including
initiation rights before the information is divulged.
The report, from the university's Institute of Advanced Studies, says:
"Obliging indigenous people to offer public documentation of traditional
knowledge for intellectual property protection purposes is insensitive
to centuries-old cultural practice in many places and may lead to
injustice." It cites the example of a legal challenge to a patent over
ayahuasca, a rainforest plant used in spiritual and cultural ceremonies.
US patent regulators refused to accept the oral evidence of an Amazon
shaman about his people's traditional knowledge of the plant's healing
Forests are commercial treasure troves
The report's author, Brendan Tobin, said: "The challenge for the world
community is to devise a process to prevent the piracy of traditional
knowledge without jeopardizing the cultural integrity and ways of
indigenous peoples. "The UN says the example of the Inuit may be
helpful: they maintain a very high level of secrecy, but let government
officials have confidential access to their traditional knowledge if
they need it. It says international law should be amended to allow
indigenous people to provide oral evidence of traditional knowledge.
Agreement in advance
They should be able to give this confidentially, and access to
confidential databases should be restricted. The report says registers
and databases developed and held by indigenous groups, museums,
botanical gardens and universities are essential for protecting
traditional knowledge. But they all need a common code of conduct, for
example making explicit acceptance of the rights of indigenous peoples
over their knowledge a pre-condition of access to the information.
It also says companies should have to demonstrate prior informed consent
as a condition for scientific or commercial use of the knowledge.
BTW the info from the Pfaf database has been put into the
American Association for the Advancement of Science's prior
art database. Which should protect the information by being
Plants for a Future: 7000 useful plants
Web: http://www.pfaf.org/ same as http://www.comp.leeds.ac.uk/pfaf/
Post: 1 Lerryn View, Lerryn, Lostwithiel, Cornwall, PL22 0QJ
Tel: 01208 872 963 / 0845 458 4719
PFAF electronic mailing list http://groups.yahoo.com/group/pfaf