Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Benefit Sharing

Legitimising the Commodification of Nature and Knowledge

Organiser: Karsten Wolff, Thanal, India

Farida Akhter (UBINIG, Bangladesh)
Ushakumari Jayakumar (Thanal, India)
Mariam Mayet (African Centre for Biosafety/ ACB, South Africa)
Alejandro Argumedo (ANDES, Peru)
Facilitation:    Jacob Nellithanam

The aim of the workshop is to address the commodification of knowledge and biodiversity, which is the basic principle of the CBD and the benefit sharing concept. The pervasive culture of turning everything and anything into commodities that can be traded is squeezing the space for common ownership. Exploitation for private gain has systematically diminished the commons, community interests and the public domain. The concept of benefit sharing is one major module in this paradigm, when it comes to biodiversity and traditional knowledge. In the last years, the main discourse has been on how to make benefit sharing feasible, but the concept itself was hardly questioned by those groups engaged in the CBD.
At this workshop, we will tackle this paradigm by having a closer look at different cases of biopiracy and benefit sharing deals. One of them was highlighted internationally (s. Earth Summit 2002) as a success story: the TBGRI-Kani Deal in Kerala, India. This deal has been internationally acclaimed as a pioneering model in benefit sharing. However, the knowledge was shared by some members of the Kani without obtaining the free and prior informed consent of either the knowledge holders or their traditional chiefs or generally obtaining consent of the community. The resource rights of the Kanis subsequent to the commercialisation of arogyapacha worsened and criminalised their limited access to the resource that they had traditionally enjoyed. Therefore, this benefit sharing agreement has led to divisions and conflicts within the Kani community and changed the indigenous pattern of governance.
Another case study will be from the Eastern Cape, South Africa, involving two species of medicinal plants, Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium reniforme. The case is unique as it encompasses a wide range of issues: bioprospecting of species endemic to South Africa/Lesotho; negative environmental impacts and consequent bans on the wild harvesting and export of the resources; gross inequity in regard to the distribution of proceeds from the use of the biological resources; and ostensible misappropriation and commodification of biological resources and indigenous knowledge. At the heart of all of this complexity lies a very lucrative phytomedicine, marketted in Europe and the US by a German pharmacuetical company and 3 illegal international patents granted to the same company by the European Patent Office.
These case studies exemplifiy the intrinisic shortcoming of any benefit sharing agreement, including one group, but excluding others who were involved in the conservation of biodiversity and knowledge for centuries as well. These case studies will show why benefit sharing is a dead concept (Devinder Sharma).
Benefit sharing has been used very cleverly by researchers and policy makers to promote corporate interests and, in the process, to turn a blind eye to the rights of the native communities who preserved the knowledge associated with the resources of desire. These case studies are presented primarily to contribute to a new and emerging alternative approach and discourse to the current and dominant one, which is based on the commodification of genetic and biological resources and traditional knowledge.
Based on grassroots consultations in India and South Africa, we aim to develop our own paradigm on how to deal with biodiversity and knowledge in a non-intrusive way. We invite other groups to share their experiences, in order to start a global network to reclaim the commons and empower the increasingly dispossessed communities.

Type and Flow of the Workshop
Networking and Strategic Planning Workshop

Welcome and Introduction
General Background: Farida Akther (UBINIG)

Case Studies:
1) Biopiracy and the Kani Deal in Kerala, India (Usha S. – THANAL)
2) The Pelargonium Biopiracy Cases in South Africa (Mariam Mayet – ACB)
3) Biopiracy in the Andes, Peru (Alejandro Argumedo – ANDES)

Recapitulation: Lessons learned

Alternative Approaches to Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge

In Search of our Paradigm – Discussions on Draft Concept
Further Communications, Networking and/ or Campaigning

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Benefit Sharing?Partage des bénéfices?VorteilsausgleichDistribución de beneficios?

Local Organising Committee