Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Protecting Indonesia from biopiracy
Indonesia’s rich biodiversity, the second largest in the world, provides for a long practice of traditional knowledge among its many indigenous communities. Its historically famous Maluku Islands, better known as Spice Islands is a good illustration of the commercial attractiveness of its abundant natural resources to many, including biopirates. “Biopiracy” is a term used to describe the commercial appropriation of ‘unprotected’ knowledge of biological resources without authorisation from and fair compensation or recognition to its native owners. This is defined and required under the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Nagoya Protocol is a 2010 supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity. Unauthorised parties are restricted from the use of their traditional knowledge without the permission of its commercial owner. Biopiracy is more prevalent in developing countries where there is a lack of awareness and availability of legal protection for traditional knowledge and lack of funding for required research for commercialisation of natural resources.
Indonesia has taken several steps over time to increase protection of its natural resources. The 2016 Patent law includes provisions on genetic resources and traditional knowledge based inventions. A new draft law aimed at research aims to be passed in 2018. It will impose tough sanctions intended to protect natural resources, local knowledge and to promote local researchers in international research projects. Foreign researchers will be required to submit their raw data to the government, and to recognise and include local researchers in published works arising from the project. Offences will lead to heavy sanctions, including criminal sentences and fines. This in addition to its past efforts including more stringent requirements and scrutiny in research permits granted to foreigners. The new law also requires foreign researchers to produce work that will ‘produce beneficial output for Indonesia’.
In response to this latter rule foreign researchers and scientists have voiced alarm, stating that this rule will seriously discourage many important international research and collaboration with Indonesia because it is not feasible to guarantee that the research will definitely ‘produce beneficial output for Indonesia’. They say this goes beyond the Nayoya Protocol. The protection of natural resources is inconsistent in Indonesia. While attempts to protect the environment are worthy, enforcement is often lax, and the arguments over destruction of rain forests and reefs illustrate this.