Is Bioprospecting a Viable Strategy for Conserving Tropical Ecosystems?
Posted: 21 May 2011
Date Written: June 18, 1999
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
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