Is Bioprospecting a Viable Strategy for Conserving Tropical Ecosystems?

Posted: 21 May 2011

See all articles by Christopher B. Barrett

Christopher B. Barrett

Cornell University - Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management

Travis J. Lybbert

University of California, Davis - Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Date Written: June 18, 1999

Abstract

Many prominent scientists avidly advocate bioprospecting, the systematic search for new commercial applications for biota, especially hitherto unstudied species, as a mechanism for inducing tropical biodiversity conservation by making it commercially attractive (Wilson; Reid et al., 1993; PAHO, 1996 and Weiss). Bioprospecting’s premise is that nature contains hidden assets of potentially huge, yet unknown magnitude to humankind that can motivate and even finance biodiversity conservation in the tropics. This undiscovered genetic or biochemical information is commonly framed in the context of potential improvements in medicine or food, thus defining a massive global population of potential beneficiaries. It is further argued that bioprospecting can affect social and economic development in developing countries by rewarding biota-rich but income-poor tropical communities that preserve and wisely manage their genetic resources. The premise of bioprospecting, coupled with the claim that practically all of humankind stands to benefit, and perhaps most especially the poorest of the poor, naturally leads to an urgent desire to conserve tropical biodiversity in order to enable discovery, extraction, and value-adding transformation of tropical biota.

Keywords: iodiversity conservation, Property rights, Rural development

Suggested Citation

Barrett, Christopher B. and Lybbert, Travis J., Is Bioprospecting a Viable Strategy for Conserving Tropical Ecosystems? (June 18, 1999). Ecological Economics, Vol. 34, No. 3, 2000, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1847721

Christopher B. Barrett (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management ( email )

315 Warren Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7801
United States
607-255-4489 (Phone)
607-255-9984 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://aem.cornell.edu/faculty_sites/cbb2/

Travis J. Lybbert

University of California, Davis - Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics ( email )

One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
United States

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