African intellectual property? What a strange idea!!

Publié le par hort

http://www.truthout.org/issues_06/021706EA.shtml

African Bio-Resources 'Exploited by West'
    By Andrew Buncombe
    The Independent UK 
    Friday 17 February 2006

    Dozens of Western multinationals have made millions of pounds in profits from exploiting African bio-resources taken from some of the poorest nations on earth, with not a penny offered in return.     Pharmaceutical firms are accused of breaching the United Nations convention on biodiversity, which states that nations have sovereignty over their own natural resources, by scouring continents for samples of unique materials, from plants to bacteria.

    A ground-breaking report identifies numerous materials, taken from Africa to Western laboratories, which have developed and patented products worth hundreds of millions of pounds - from a trailing plant beloved of gardeners across Europe to a natural cure for impotence and a microbe used in fading designer jeans.      In some cases companies accept that their product is based on a traditional source and yet there is no evidence the companies have compensated countries from which they took them.

    "It's a new form of colonial pillaging," said Beth Burrows, of the US-based Edmonds Institute, the environmental group that published the report. "We have identified a number of cases that require a lot of explanation. The problem is that we have a world [where companies] are used to taking whatever they want from wherever and thinking they are doing it for the good of mankind."     Mariam Mayet, of the South Africa-based African Centre for Biodiversity, co-authors of the report, said: "There is a total disregard and disrespect for Africa's resources. Our findings were made after just one month of research. Imagine what we could discover with two years of research."

    Among the companies named is the British firm SR Pharma, which it says holds patents for a mycobacterium collected in Uganda during the 1970s and used to develop a treatment for chronic viral infections, including HIV.      SR Pharma's final director Melvyn Davies confirmed his company had neither offered the product or financial compensation to Uganda. He said the drug had not made any profits for the company, although it had raised $20m (£11.5m) in funding for research.

    "If you pick up a natural substance from the street, does that mean it belongs to the country in which you found it? [Our researcher] just happened to be in Uganda," he said. "The issue is not about where the source was but the work that has been done to develop it. Should Uganda share in the profits that will be generated if [it did not invest in the development]?"

    Another company mentioned in the report is the German company Bayer. It says that Bayer acquired a strain of bacteria from Lake Ruiru in Kenya, from which it has developed a drug that helps diabetes sufferers.

    The patented drug is usually sold under the name of Precose or Glucobay and has generated at least $380m (£218m) in sales. And yet Kenya has received nothing in return. Bayer spokeswoman Christina Sehnert confirmed the product had been developed from the Kenyan bacteria but said that the drug was a product of biotechnology. She said. "You are not using the original. What has been patented is the bio-tech product."

    Also taken from Kenya were microbes discovered in the Rift Valley lakes in 1992 by California-based Genencor International. The microbes were used in the manufacture of enzymes used to give jeans a faded look. The exploitation of Africa's natural resources in this manner breaches the 1992 International Convention on Biological Diversity which protects the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic  resources, according to Arthur Nogueira, a senior official with the convention's secretariat in Canada.

    How Nations Are Losing Out

Canadian company Option Biotech has patented seeds of Congo's Aframomum stipulatum for an anti-impotence drug called Bioviagra. A bottle of 24 capsules costs £17.


A microbe from Kenya's Lake Nakuru is owned by US company Genencor and is used to fade blue jeans. Enzymes of another microbe owned  by Genencor are used in Procter & Gamble's global detergent brands. The Kenyan government claims it is not receiving any benefits.


Tanzania's Usambara mountains are home to the plant Impatiens usambarensis, used by Switzerland-based Sygenta and sold as a hanging basket plant. Sygenta made £85m from it in 2004. The Tanzanian government has had no share in the profits.
 

 Schooling, Immersion Programs Help Save Endangered Languages
By Art Chimes
San Francisco, California
28 February 2007

There are nearly 7,000 languages on Earth, but experts say about half of them are endangered, meaning only a small and declining number of often elderly people  speak the language. Major world and national languages crowd out indigenous ones, and it's estimated that more languages became extinct in the 20th century than at any other time in history.
 
For scientists, the loss of a language represents a very real loss of knowledge. And that knowledge could save lives at a time when drug companies search tropical forests for biologically-based medical breakthroughs, and many if not most plant and animal species remain unknown to Western science.
 
At last week's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, David Harrison of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania said saving endangered languages could help scientists harness knowledge that might otherwise be lost."Vast domains of knowledge about meteorology, mathematics, weather cycles, plant and animal behavior, how to domesticate plants and animals, how to control genetic stocks exists," Harrison stressed. "It is out there, it is fragile, it is very rapidly eroding."
 
When a language goes, so does culture. The Miami are a native people that once thrived in the American Midwest. Three centuries ago, their Myaamia language was widely spoken. But the language began to die out as the tribe was forced from its ancestral homeland and its members became more assimilated in mainstream America. It was essentially extinct by the 1960s. However, the language had been well documented, and Daryl Baldwin and his Myaamia Project have been working to revitalize both the language and the culture it represents.
 
"For communities that have been socially disrupted, the language provides an avenue by which they can mend and heal," said Baldwin, "because embodied in that language is a great deal of information about how we relate to each other and how we relate to our landscape. And so language revitalization has been incredibly enriching. It's been daunting. Language loss is about social change; language reclamation is also about social change."
 
Revitalizing an endangered language is never easy. In Hawaii, the U.S. state that was an independent monarchy until 1893, the culture is strong, but the language has faced severe challenges, such as a law that prohibited teaching it in schools until two decades ago. William Wilson of the University of Hawaii says it is important to expose young Hawaiians to the language, and the subject now is taught to school children. "So that's increasing the numbers of speakers," Wilson said. "In 1986, when we started, there were less than 50 children in all of Hawaii that could speak Hawaiian fluently. Now we have about 2,000 in our school system. More importantly, there are actually families that speak Hawaiian at home. And so we've started infant-toddler programs, where those children can come together before they go to preschool."
 
 
On the mainland, California has a tremendous heritage of language diversity, with as many as 100 native languages having been spoken there. Many are now endangered or gone entirely. Leanne Hinton of the University of California says one-on-one intensive programs are helping sustain threatened languages."One of them is the master-apprentice language learning program, which pairs the last speakers of native languages with younger members of the tribe who want to learn it. And we teach them the fundamentals of language immersion, and they are supposed to spend 10 or 20 hours a week just living their lives together in the language and without recourse to English," Hinton explained.
 
 
Despite efforts like these, indigenous and other minority languages will continue to be threatened, and many likely will die off. But aggressive programs can help ensure the survival of other languages, along with the knowledge and culture they embody
 
 
 

 

 

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