Biotechnology and traditional knowledge: in search of equity
Biotechnology has increased the value of genetic resources and related traditional knowledge of indigenous and farming communities. However, the diversity of animal and plant resources as well as traditional knowledge are declining at an accelerated rate. Biological diversity, coupled with traditional knowledge are essential to maintain the options for the survival of mankind in a changing world. Whereas information generated in formal innovatory processes can be protected by intellectual property rights, the informational value of traditional knowledge and of genetic resources generated in informal breeding systems at present cannot be protected by legal means. It is submitted that, by creating property rights sui generis for genetic resources and traditional knowledge, they would become a tradable good. Benefits could be allocated to the authors of the information and act as an incentive for the conservation and maintenance of biological diversity and traditional knowledge. The paper explores the factual background and the present legal environment. Furthermore it investigates the option of creating traditional intellectual property rights within the frame of the WTO/TRIPS negotiations.
Keywords: biological diversity, genetic resources, plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, traditional knowledge, intellectual property, intellectual property rights, traditional intellectual property rights, plant breeders rights, farmers', rights, traditional resource rights, Convention on Biological Diversity, TRIPS, FAO, WTO, UPOV, International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources, North-South, conservation of biological diversity, indigenous and local communities