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Johannesburg Declaration on Biopiracy, Biodiversity and Community Rights

This declaration was presented at the Peoples Earth Summit, a parallel event to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 26 August to 4 September 2002. The declaration was coordinated by the South African non-governmental organisation, Biowatch, and reflects the views of participants at the South-South Biopiracy Summit held prior to the WSSD.

Key statements made in the declaration include:

  • recognition of the fundamental role played by local communities, indigenous peoples, farmers and in particular women, and their traditional knowledge in the conservation and management of biological diversity to ensure food and health security;
  • realisation that communities have not benefited from bioprospecting, and the bioprospecting has actually legitimised the unfair appropriation of biological resources and knowledge;
  • opposition to biopiracy and the patenting of biological resources and knowledge, and the idea that benefit sharing is possible without patents; and
  • the belief that community rights over biodiversity and indigenous knowledge are collective in nature, and therefore cannot be privatised.
Proposals include:
  • the international community to negotiate a legally binding agreement under the Convention on Biodiversity to prevent biopiracy, to ensure national sovereignty over biological and genetic resources, and to protect the rights of indigenous and local communities over their resources and knowledge;
  • that prior informed consent of indigenous peoples and local communities should be a prerequisite for benefit sharing;
  • a total ban on the patenting of life forms and the use of any intellectual property rights on biodiversity and traditional knowledge and for this to be reflected in and amendment to the Trade-related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement; and
  • for World Trade Organisation members to allow countries maximum flexibility to establish sui generis systems of protection for plant varieties.

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