Is Brazil beating biopiracy or biodiversity research?
Brazil's Amazon rainforest is teeming with life — an estimated 30 per cent of the planet's animal and plant species — that could yield raw materials for new medicines. Brazil fears that foreign researchers could exploit its biodiversity without paying the country a fair share of the profits.
As Michael Astor reports in this article, however, Brazilian efforts to deter such 'biopiracy' risk stifling both local and foreign research. The government's strict rules controlling research on Brazil's wild species have forced some scientists to move their projects to neighbouring Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.
And although concerns about biopiracy are widespread in Brazil, a member of the congressional committee investigating it says they have not found evidence for even a single case.
Brazilian researchers interviewed in the article say Brazil does not have enough knowledge about the very biodiversity it is desperate to protect. They agree that the best way to protect the Amazon's biodiversity would be for Brazil to invest more in home-grown research.