The following is a summary prepared for RAFI’s listserve, posted 23 October. Please visit RAFI’s web site to find the complete document http://www.rafi.org
"Stop Biopiracy in Mexico!" Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations from Chiapas Demand Immediate Moratorium
Mexican Government Says No to Bioprospecting Permits
Over one year ago, eleven indigenous peoples’ organizations under the umbrella of the Council of Traditional Indigenous Doctors and Midwives from Chiapas (Consejo de Medicos y Parteras Indigenas Tradicionales de Chiapas) demanded the suspension of the International Collaborative Biodiversity Group-Maya (ICBG-Maya) - a US government-funded project aimed at the bioprospecting of their medicinal plants and traditional knowledge.
After one year of fruitless talks with the ICBG-Maya and Mexican authorities, the Council held a press conference on September 12, 2000 to again demand the termination of the project.
The Council believes that indigenous people have been manipulated both by the Mexican authorities and the ICBG-Maya project leaders - the University of Georgia and ECOSUR in Chiapas.
Along with the suspension of this particular project, the Council is demanding an immediate moratorium on ALL bioprospecting projects in Mexico. The moratorium should only be lifted once the indigenous people and Mexican society have had the opportunity to evaluate the impact of these projects, and once appropriate laws protecting genetic resources and traditional knowledge are in place.
The Council’s demands were supported by over 100 indigenous peoples’, farmers’ and other civil society organizations attending the seminar "Bioprospecting or Biopiracy?" held 14-15 September in Mexico City.
In late September the Council learned that the Mexican Government has denied the ICBG-Maya permission to conduct bio-assays (that is, analysis of active compounds) on plants collected in Chiapas. For RAFI, the clear opposition of local indigenous groups to this project is ample reason for the research team to withdraw from the state of Chiapas.
Now that the Mexican government has denied the ICBG permission to conduct bio-assays, the ICBG has even more reason to terminate the project. When will ICBG go home?
After two years of intense local opposition, the ICBG Maya has failed to win the confidence of local indigenous groups or regulatory approval from the Mexican government. There is no consensus among the peoples of Chiapas that the Project should proceed.
The ICBG-Maya, including the University of Georgia, ECOSUR and Molecular Nature should give immediate attention to an exit strategy and termination of the Project.
* * *
For additional background information on the Chiapas "Bioprospecting" ICBG Project, please see the following documents on RAFI’s web site:
"Biopiracy Project in Chiapas, Mexico Denounced by Mayan Indigenous Groups," 1 December 1999.
"Messages from the Chiapas ‘Bioprospecting’ Dispute," 22 December 1999.
"Biopiracy - RAFI’s Sixth Annual Update," RAFI Communique, May/June, 2000.
For additional information contact: