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[RIO DE JANEIRO] The Brazilian government has announced a new system that will issue licences to collect biological material for scientific research and teaching purposes more quickly.

Previously, licences for the collection of plants, animals and other biological materials in Brazil took up to two years to be processed in the most complicated cases. The new Biodiversity Authorization and Information System (Sisbio) allows licences to be granted up to 45 days after application via the Internet.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA) — the organisation responsible for Sisbio — the simplest cases could be resolved within seven days.

However, applications will require more detailed evaluation if they involve studies in conservation areas or caves, species at risk of extinction, the import or export of biological material and collection of vertebrates exceeding a set quota.

New rules have also been established to collect, capture, transport, receive and send Brazilian biological material through other countries.

Scientists say the previous licensing system was too severe and 'criminalised' scientific activities.

According to Marcos Tavares, from the University of São Paulo Zoological Museum and a member of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science, IBAMA's permission was required for a teacher to gather species in a field with students.

"The new system represents a huge improvement due to its rapidity and the transparency offered…which will provoke a positive impact in scientific studies," Tavares told SciDev.Net.

Scientists will eventually be able to use Sisbio to access satellite images of potential research areas and gauge research activity in areas so they can better plan their research.

Sisbio ― established on 2 March ― is the result of more than a year of debate between IBAMA and the Sisbio Technical Advisory Committee, composed of government members and representatives of scientific associations.

Rômulo Mello, IBAMA's director of Fauna and Fishing Resources, says the new system reconciles the interests of both scientific community and IBAMA.

"[IBAMA's] goal is to allow scientific knowledge improvement with the smallest environmental impact possible and to inhibit biopiracy," said Mello.

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