Thursday, May 31, 2018

Brazil - new legislation with dire consequences

The Brazilian Federal Government has put their so called New Law on Biodiversity into effect and it seems it is a huge step backwards with severe implications for the Brazilian colleagues and biodiversity research overall.

The key section of this new legislation that was met with some strong but healthy criticism is the fact that literally every bit of research activity done on Brazilian biodiversity must now be registered in the National System of Genetic Resource Management and Associated Traditional Knowledge (SisGen). Any dissemination of research results that were not registered in SisGen, even in conference talks, or a shipment made without prior registration, will represent infractions subject to hefty fines (up to US$ 3,000,000 for legal entities). In order to do so each institution needs a legal representative who will then be in sole control of registering researchers as applicants to SisGen.

A group of Brazilian colleagues took this to Science and made clear, that if not repealed or substantially overhauled, this Byzantine labyrinth of unnecessary demands and threats will decimate scientific research on Brazilian biodiversity by requiring scientists to divert an inordinate amount of already limited resources from research to the time-consuming process of  registering every specimen, DNA sequence, photograph, and any other observation of Brazilian biodiversity before publication, presentation at scientific meetings, or dissemination to media outlets.

I am fairly certain that biodiversity research in Brazil will come to a grinding halt especially when international collaborations are involved. Even worse the law is working retroactively going back as far as 2000. 

Despite the opposition of some academics about government control over research involving Brazilian biodiversity, due to the resulting bureaucratization, it is important to clarify that this control was foreseen in the Federal Constitution of 1988, as well as in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol (supplementary agreement to the CBD), which aim to safeguard the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the rights of holders of associated traditional knowledge, as well as the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

I am not so sure if this new law is in line with the goals of the CBD and their intentions for Access and Benefit Sharing. Brazil shouldn't be surprised if there is pushback from other member states in a similar situation that have far more progressive legislation in place. What is infuriating though is the fact that commercial activities involving Brazilian biodiversity, such as the export of ornamental fishes, tropical plants, grains, and other marketable products, remain unaffected by the law. That doesn't sound like safeguarding national biodiversity to me .

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