June 29, 1994

Volume 1, #2 Microbial BioPiracy

Initial Analysis of Microbial Genetic Resources Originating in the South and Held in the North

There is slow but growing recognition worldwide that agricultural and medicinal plant species - nurtured, selected,and bred over millennia by farmers and healers from the South - have yielded, and continue to yield, enormous benefits to industry in the North. A systematic analysis, however, has never been done on the value of microbial genetic resources (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) to the North.

With the advent of new biotechnologies and the emergence of new international agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity and GATT TRIPS (the Trade Related Intellectual Property Agreement of the new GATT deal), microbial genetic resources take on a growing importance in North/South negotiations. In this paper, RAFI draws attention to this little-known fact.

Using data from the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC, the largest bank of microbial genetic resources in the world) RAFI provides a preliminary North/South analysis of microbial genetic resources. RAFI presents data by country, on microbial material taken from the South, housed, and in some cases patented by industry in the North - usually without the knowledge of Southern governments or peoples.


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