SBPC criticizes draft bill

Daniel BuenoThe Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC) has released a statement proposing changes to the draft bill on biodiversity and genetic resources that was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on February 10, 2015. The bill now heads to the Senate for debate. In the document, the Society criticizes the bill’s curtailment of the benefit-sharing rights of groups who have made access to knowledge on genetic heritage possible. “The bill recognizes the rights of indigenous populations, traditional communities, and small farmers to join in decision making, but in many cases it exempts businesses and researchers from their obligation to share the benefits by financially compensating the holders of traditional knowledge associated with biodiversity,” explains Helena Nader, SBPC president. According to federal representative Alceu Moreira of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party from the state of Rio Grande do Sul (PMDB-RS), rapporteur for the bill, representative associations like the National Foundation for Indigenous People (FUNAI) and the National Institute on Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA) took part in the meetings that led up to the lower house vote. “We didn’t hold an open meeting because the subject matter was technical,” he says. The SBPC statement also highlights the fact that benefit sharing will only apply to the sale of finished goods, thus excusing businesses and researchers from paying compensation until a marketable product has been developed. Furthermore, the SBPC questions a topic in the bill that grants foreign institutions access to Brazilian biodiversity for research purposes yet does not require them to be associated with a Brazilian institution, as currently prescribed by law. “That’s of concern,” says Helena Nader.