Biodiversity is the variability amongst all life forms and is usually a measure of the health of a biological system and one of the major challenges today is to protect our natural resources including flora and fauna from extinction. This definition of biodiversity aptly signifies the importance of biological diversity in sustenance of all life forms on earth including human beings. Biodiversity plays a key role in providing shelter, building material, stabilization and moderation of earth’s climate, purification of air, water and provision of food, fuel, fiber, cultural and aesthetic benefits. Recently the Global Biodiversity Assessment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) concluded that the adverse effects of human impacts on biodiversity are increasing dramatically and threatening the very foundation of sustainable development. With the motive to preserve these priceless gifts of nature CBD was formulated. CBD is the foremost instrument for stemming the loss of biological diversity and ensuring equitable and sustainable access to the resources and benefits of that wealth.
Readers are aware that the Convention was signed at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development – known as the Earth Summit – in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It entered into force in December 1993, after that it had been ratified at a national level by 30 of the countries that had signed it in Rio and till date 191 parties are signatory. President Bush (senior) refused to sign the CBD at the Earth Summit in Rio. Although President Clinton signed the Convention two years later, but US has still not ratified the treaty and also refused to frame national laws in line with CBD.
Only four nations in the world are non-parties: Andorra, Iraq, Somalia, and the USA. In a recently published article in “The Financial Express” entitled “BICS must persuade the US to sign CBD” dated 22nd April, 2009. This article highlighted about the reluctance of US to ratify CBD, in spite of being the global pharmaceutical leader. President Obama’s administration has also not yet shown so much interest in CBD, whereas as a senator he had made a commitment for CBD.
The Hot spots for biodiversity are Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Philippines as well (http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/hotspots/index.html) as India. Brazil has already pressed US for this and the author also suggests that India should take persuasive steps in coordination with other countries to make US to formulate its national laws in confirmation with CBD. India is taking serious steps to protect its national wealth by maintaining a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) as discussed in an earlier post “Why does India need TKDL? A word on our heritage”. If these efforts are to be more for India in the long run, we may need to think of measures to step up for ratification of CBD by countries like USA.
As per a WHO study, by 2015, more than 72% of drugs would be based on plants. More of the biodiversity based products are expected, which enhances the risks for bio-piracy and infringement of Indigenous Knowledge.
India is not the only country who is struggling against the capitalist’s who are exploiting their TK and biodiversity, this has also been appropriately depicted by Ruchica’s blog article on the plight of aboriginals of New Zealand, article entitled “IP Law vs. Indigenous Knowledge- an example from New Zealand”. This is a serious issue for many underdeveloped countries and their Traditional Knowledge as well as biodiversity which they have conserved, that can prove to be a milestone in the path of their development.
In the past also, there are many instances where traditional knowledge and genetic resources originally belonging to India have been patented and commercially exploited without acknowledgement and benefit sharing. Also, India cannot provide access to its genetic resources to US till they ratify their national rules. It is the time; India should think of coordinating with other countries having same interests and are rich in biological diversity and initializing the process of protecting their resources.