Brazil’s biopiracy laws ‘are stifling research’

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[RECIFE] Brazilian scientists are urging the government to modify laws that have been introduced to reduce biopiracy, in order to give them more freedom to collect and analyse biological material for research purposes.

A motion approved at the annual meeting of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC) in Recife last week says that laws intended to stop wildlife trafficking and the illegal export of genetic material are stifling research on Brazilian biodiversity.

The motion calls for the government to grant ‘permanent licences’ to scientists and research students to allow them to investigate biodiversity. Its aim is to end the way in which current regulations, many scientists argue, hinder their ability to work with animals, plants, micro-organisms and ecosystems.

“At the moment, the legislation is too restrictive”, says Regina Markus, SBPC’s general-secretary and a researcher at the University of São Paulo. Markus proposes a two-tier system of biopiracy controls, allowing greater restrictions to be imposed on commercial projects, but giving greater freedom to scientists.

In a separate motion, the members of the SBPC also called for the consolidation of efforts to computerise data on Brazil’s biological collections, to allow wider access to information on the country’s biodiversity.

An estimated 25,000 individuals took part in the Recife meeting, which included about 50 lectures and 90 roundtables on scientific themes, ranging from science policy and science communication to the interface between scientists and decision makers.

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