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New word: Biopiracy
by Juliana Elo
Issue 4
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Much is told in the European media about crimes in Brazil, but biopiracy is a crime that developed countries prefer to ignore. When it comes to the rainforest, the news is about its destruction, but nobody hears how hard Brazil has been fighting for its natural patrimony conservation.

On account of the Amazon’s rich biodiversity, smuggling birds and beautiful animals has been good business for the black market ever since the first Europeans invaded Brazil. The Indigo Macaw (Anodorhynchus leari) is under the threat of extinction; on the international market it can cost around $60,000. All this greed has been extinguishing some animals, such as the Little Blue Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) that cannot be found in nature anymore.

The Brazilian government estimates that 38 million animals are captured every year in the country, from which just 10% are commercialized and the remaining 90% are left to die due to their poor transport conditions. Dealers do the cruelest things, anything to escape from the Brazilian police. Tamarins were once found being transported in thermos flasks and birds are transported in PVC tubes. To make the bigger ones fit, their chest bones are broken, which usually keeps them quiet during the trip, once the pain has paralysed them; monkeys are normally sedated with alcohol shots.

However, biopiracy is not only the smuggling of flora and fauna, but it’s mainly the arrogation and monopolisation of the traditional population’s knowledge and resources. It’s stealing the rights from traditional populations over their resources. Many foreigners visiting Amazon count on native people’s courtesy and hospitality to learn their knowledge and then betray them - that’s what happened with Cupuaçu (Theobroma Grandiflorum), a fruit belonging to the Cacau family.

Cupuaçu has been cultivated by natives as a primary food source for generations; it was used to produce a chocolate-like foodstuff known in Brazil as Capulate. Therefore, the trademark “Capulate” was registered in Japan. Mr. Nagasawa Makoto, who claimed to be the “inventor” of Capulate, was taken to court by a Brazilian non-governmental organisation not long ago. There are still companies in the E.U. and U.S.A. on the way, the English Body Shop is one of them.

Medicine created by Indians from frog’s skin and plants are registered by U.S. Universities, Canadians and Germans industries without permission, and without any benefit to the real inventors is biopiracy, it’s a crime. Why aren’t these crimes reported in European and North American newspapers?

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