Bioprospecting


What is the issue? Due to its diversity, the HoB provides good bioprospecting opportunities. Genetic resources and agro-biodiversity in large parts of the HoB have been used, cultivated, managed and modified by local people for centuries.

This rich tradition (codified in language, plant names, local pharmacopeia and recipes, etc) has made it possible to identify and recognize potential uses of plants and other organisms for food, medicinal and other purposes. The holders and custodians of this traditional knowledge should be enabled to share in the financial gains made from these genetic recourses.

Rather than seeing bioprospecting solely as an opportunity for financial gain, the source country may want to negotiate a form of cooperation which builds institutional and human resource capacity for research and development.

Who is the seller? Currently governments of countries engage in bioprospecting agreements as ‘sellers’

Who is the buyer?Pharmaceutical companies engage in bioprospecting agreements as ‘buyers’

Steps towards
successful business model
  • Establish database of species found in the HoB and related traditional knowledge;
  • Establish procedure to secure intellectual property (IP) rights;
  • Establish a mechanism for benefit sharing with local communities;
  • Raise community awareness concerning their IP rights;
  • Provide a one-stop shop for prospective bioprospecting customers;
  • Generate and sell credits representing the rights to the conservation or enhancement of environmental attributes.
Exploit investment opportunities

What can the private sector do? Start joint ventures with local communities, to enable local retention of financial gains and knowledge and capacity building.

What can the Government do? National:
  • Develop action plan for implementing Nagoya protocol for equitable benefit sharing under CBD;
  • Resolve issues regarding the rights of indigenous communities in the HoB, including Intellectual Property rights;
  • Devolve authority to enter into bioprospecting agreements to province/district governments, to facilitate local benefit sharing;
  • Countries whose national development plans envision a knowledge-based economy can use related budgetary allocations to fund advanced technical training and knowledge transfer in biochemical sciences.
Local:
  • Establish biodiversity center as knowledge hub, one-stopshop for bioprospecting “customers”, provide related space, equipment and laboratory services for sample analysis.
Contribution to…
  • Securing natural capital: By attaching value to biodiversity in this way, natural capital will gain appreciation in general. However, the challenge lies in ensuring the ability to share the benefits of biodiversity with the local communities who are the custodians of the resources.
  • Poverty reduction: Poverty reduction can be attained through bioprospecting provided benefits are shared with the local communities.
  • Economic growth: Both the pharmaceutical industry and the conservation-related industries are boosted through bioprospecting; if benefits are shared equitably this will further boost the local economy.
  • Climate change mitigation / adaptation: As bioprospecting requires biodiversity, it duly requires healthy ecosystems, which in the HoB inevitably entails health forest ecosystems. Thus, lucrative bioprospecting serves as an incentive to forest conservation and avoidance of deforestation and forest degradation and related carbon emissions.