In DepthNatural Resources

Brazil cuts red tape stifling biodiversity studies

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Science  29 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6238, pp. 952-953
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6238.952

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Summary

Scientists in recent years have run afoul of a law aiming to clamp down on what Brazil perceived as rampant pillaging of its biological resources. After wrangling over how to fix the statute, in which officials sought to balance the interests of scientists, the agricultural industry, and biotech firms with those of indigenous populations demanding compensation for traditional knowledge, Brazil President Dilma Rousseff last week signed a law that is raising hopes among scientists. Like its predecessor, the new "biodiversity law" regulates research on "genetic resources": an all-encompassing term covering everything from genes and proteins to oils and fragrances. It sets rules for sharing benefits with indigenous peoples when R&D leads to a product, such as a drug, shampoo, energy drink, or industrial enzyme, while eliminating bureaucratic hassles and encouraging biodiversity research. The scientific community has greeted the new law with a sigh of relief.

  • * in São Paulo, Brazil. Herton Escobar writes for O Estado de São Paulo.