At the end of the year 2012, the future of the Earth makes the headlines. To the point that it could be named Person of the Year by Time magazine, if we take into account the number of events and news that have been dedicated to it during the year.

Several important events, conferences, exhibitions and meetings were held at the end of the year, on the themes of biodiversity,  dialogue between companies and local communities, scientific research, industrial development and traditional knowledge on biodiversity.

We have chosen to discuss two of events, different but complementary:

  • the Global Conference of the Earth Workshops, held in Evian from September 24 to 26, and
  • Salone del Gosto – Terra Madre, organised by the Slow Food movement in Torino, a month later (from October 25th to 29th).
  • the Hyderabad conference was mentioned in a previous article (in French only).

Participating as a member of the Commission “Perspectives on genetic biodiversity resources and fair benefit-sharing ” at the Global Conference in Evian, we reported with others on the work of this commission composed of half a dozen experts in research, civic engagement and private entreprise. This topic came in perfectly with the theme that the Earth Workshops chose this year: “Age of bioconstruction or triumph of competition?”.

Rather than recommendations, which would have been premature, the commission preferred to indicate lines of work, including  the need but also the dangers inherent to the census of traditional knowledge on biodiversity. The consistency of the various international instruments relating to biodiversity, and the need to implement a binding mechanism similar to that operating at the World Trade Organization, were highlighted.

We would like to add some ideas to the findings of the Biodiversity Commission of the Earth Workshops: this coherence of international texts is particularly critical when considering the relationship between the articles of the Convention on Biological Diversity related to Traditional Knowledge (Articles 8 j and 15) and the international framework of intellectual property rights.

The latter emphasizes individual ownership and written knowledge through the tool of patents, typical of industrial property, regardless of oral knowledge and collective knowledge. However, this framework is not consistent with the type of collective management implied by the concept of biodiversity. A new sui generis right would be useful to record the specifics of biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge. The founding text of the World Trade Organization makes it possible. The law should recognize at the same time: the common good nature of biodiversity resources, the value of the specific work of local communities that have developed a knowledge of these resources and the needs of research and development. A new thinking that is just beginning to be cleared …

  • The Biodiversity Commission of the Earth Workshops, with its conclusions (page removed).


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