“To have potatoes, there must be land, people to work it, a culture to support the people, Mother Earth and the mountain gods…”
By Stephen Leahy*
VIENNA, Jul 6 (Tierramérica)
Indigenous peoples risk losing control over their traditional knowledge if the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) insists on strict standards for managing access to information.
Patents and other forms of restricting access to knowledge are very worrisome in a time of climate change, says a new report by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).
The study was presented at meetings of the WIPO – a United Nations agency – held Jun. 23-Jul. 3 in Geneva.
“Intellectual property standards restrict use of genetic resources when we need flexibility and adaptability to cope with climate change,” said Michel Pimbert, director of IIED’s Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity and Livelihoods Programme.
WIPO aims to develop rules for protecting rights over traditional knowledge, such as indigenous knowledge about medicinal plants, which conventional intellectual property laws do not cover.
However, according to IIED’s Krystyna Swiderska, who coordinated the research in Africa, Asia and Latin America, “WIPO’s call for consistency with existing intellectual property standards is a flawed approach as these have been created on Western commercial lines to limit access to inventions such as drugs developed by private companies.”
Intellectual property is about restricting access, creating monopolies and eliminating competition, and it is being pushed by transnational pharmaceutical and seed companies, said Pimbert. Continue reading