Bioprospecting charges take their toll on Mexican research

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Researchers studying indigenous plant varieties have been forced to stop their work in Southern Mexico, despite various efforts to involve the indigenous community in understanding the scientific and conservation goals of their research.

US scientists investigating plant species in the Chiapas region of Mexico set up plays to explain their research to local people, in an attempt to avoid the accusations of biopiracy that have dogged similar projects.

But a government review of Mexico’s bioprospecting legislation, in addition to the claims of some environmentalist groups that the plays were a smokescreen to obscure commercial interests behind the scientists’ work, have forced the researchers to retreat home.

Reference: Nature 414, 685 (2001)

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