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How Should the Benefits of Bioprospecting Be Shared?

The Hastings Center Report, 2010, Jan-Feb, 40, 1

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Bioprospecting--the search for valuable chemical products in natural biological resources--is an important source of novel chemical and biological products with potential uses in medicine, agriculture, and other industries. (1) But a great deal of the world's "biodiversity" is found in developing countries, which often lack the research capacity to make use of it. Bioprospecting in such environments generally requires outside bioprospectors and sponsors from the developed world. This has led to concern that bioprospectors will take what is valuable without compensating the community from which the samples come or whose knowledge led to the discovery. Critics label such practices "biopiracy." Consider the famous Hoodia case. (2) For millennia, the San people of southern Africa have used native plants of the Hoodia genus as appetite suppressants. Their practice was documented by colonial botanists, and Hoodia's properties were then investigated in the late twentieth century by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which attempted to isolate the active ingredients. In 1995, following nine years of development, CSIR applied for a patent on the chemical components of the plant that suppressed appetite. Three years later, they signed a licensing agreement with a private company named Phytopharm that developed a program with Pfizer for commercialization of Hoodia products for the lucrative Western weight loss market. All this research and development proceeded without the knowledge of the San. Only in 2001, following extensive press exposure, did CSIR enter into negotiations with San representatives about whether and how the San ought to benefit from Hoodias commercialization.

How Should the Benefits of Bioprospecting Be Shared?
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  • 2,99 €
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Life Sciences
  • Published: 01 January 2010
  • Publisher: Hastings Center
  • Print Length: 33 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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