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[RIO DE JANEIRO] Representatives from patent offices in six Latin American nations that share the Amazon basin have agreed to work together against 'biopiracy' — the unauthorised commercial exploitation of their native species.

According to the Rio Declaration — signed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 1 July — Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Surinam and Venezuela will share information and jointly develop policies to tackle the phenomenon.

Along with Colombia and Guyana, the countries are members of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, which organised the Rio meeting.

They are concerned that researchers could patent drugs and other products derived from their native species, including products based on traditional knowledge such as herbal medicines, without sharing the benefits fairly.

To tackle this threat more efficiently, the countries agreed to harmonise their intellectual property laws and share technical information included in patents.

The Amazon basin is one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth, with many species found nowhere else on the planet.

The Amazon Cooperation Treaty was created in 1978 to promote sustainable development in the region.

To read more about biodiversity, visit SciDev.Net's biodiversity dossier

Link to full text of the Rio Declaration (in Portuguese and Spanish)