Biodiversity Theft

Last week the Indonesian government held a biodiversity conservation workshop to address the problem of illegal trade in genetic material.

“Samples of some species have been illegally removed from the country for research purposes by foreign scientists, possibly concealed about their persons,” said the Forestry Ministry’s secretary-general, Boen M. Purnama. “We need to protect and sustain our biodiversity. It could have vast potential that we don’t know about yet. Some herbal medicines overseas may actually contain ingredients acquired from the country’s forests and then sold back to Indonesia or to other countries at high prices. It costs us both money and intellectual property rights”.

Indonesia has more than 47 different ecosystems, 28,000 indigenous species of flora, and thousands of species of micro-organisms. According to the Forestry Ministry, countries such as the US, Russia and other European nations control 54 per cent of the 3.9 million commercially viable genetic plant resources worldwide, while only 16 per cent are controlled by international research institutions, with the rest being controlled by developing countries.

A bill on the conservation and use of genetic resources was submitted to the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia in 2002 but it is still on the waiting list. Local activists are urging the government to take immediate action.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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