Brazil gets tough on 'biopirates'
The law, which defines ten offences and a range of penalties, was enacted on 8 June. It prohibits, for example, the unauthorised export of Brazilian species.
The fines vary from 200 to 50,000,000 reais (US$85 to US$20 million). Cases involving endangered species will receive double the usual fine.
Other punishments include confiscation of samples taken without permission and the suspension of sales and registrations of, and patent rights over, products derived from living organisms.
The Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) and Brazil's navy will enforce the law.
Biologist Eduardo Vélez, executive secretary of the Ministry of the Environment's Council for the Management of Genetic Patrimony says the law aims to ensure Brazil retains sovereignty over its biodiversity, whilst educating people about the importance of conserving it.
"First-time offenders that bring their activities into line with the law can have their fines reduced by up to 90 per cent, or even suspended," he says.
Fines will be used exclusively to conserve biodiversity, for instance by creating and maintaining gene banks, supporting scientific research and training personnel.
The law was enacted on the same days as the Brazilian government launched a national campaign to raise public awareness about biopiracy.
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