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IISD urges scientists to have a say in the setting of new rules for foreign access to biological resources

NEW YORK—January 22, 2009—Scientists are being urged to make their voices heard as the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity finalizes negotiations to establish an international regime for access and benefit-sharing of biological resources.

There are concerns that overly restrictive government-imposed requirements to gain access to biological resources for academic research have become so burdensome that it is stifling international collaboration and benefit sharing between developed and less developed nations.

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) associates and Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) writers and editors Stefan Jungcurt and Sikina Jinnah, who have been reporting on the issue for some years, have noted the near absence of academics and have appealed to the scientific community to become more actively involved in the negotiations.

In an article published in the January 23, 2009 issue of Science Magazine, the ENB reporters have outlined a number of issues where there is a lack of consensus in the negotiations, which should be of particular concern to scientists.

“This is an opportunity for scientific professional organizations, such as the Society for Conservation Biology, to pool member experience and to prepare a paper on, for example, experiences with overly restrictive access requirements, such as those faced by entomologists in India, when a collaborative project to study the insects of the Western Ghats was derailed by the Indian National Biodiversity Authority for biopiracy concerns,” the authors said.

They point to numerous examples where scientists have been denied access to biological resources needed for academic research, or even jailed for lacking the appropriate permits for possession.

The aim of the CBD isn’t just to conserve biological diversity, but to also address sustainable development and conservation issues. However, the window for input by the scientific community is quickly closing as negotiations are expected to conclude in 2010.

“Industry, environmental and indigenous organizations are certain to continue making their voices heard. Why not academics too,” Jinnah and Jungcurt said, adding that the ENB provides daily coverage of what is discussed at the meetings as well as a summary and analysis of the meetings’ outcomes. CBD webpage on ABS.

The Science Magazine article is available by subscription at http://www.sciencemag.org/, or can be accessed at EurekAlert http://www.eurekalert.org/ by registered members.

Please contact the authors by email for comment or to arrange interviews.

Stefan Jungcurt is available for interviews in English, French or German: stefan@iisd.org

Sikina Jinnah: Sikina_Jinnah@brown.edu

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