Monday, April 20, 2009

Green Gold Rush: The Interview, The Movie

Laurent Gaberell told me that he made a video documentary called Green Gold Rush about bioprospecting (the exploration of biodiversity for commercially valuable genetic and bio-chemical resources) and indigenous peoples. See the video here.

The Interview
IP Dragon: Is traditional knowledge what the developed world wanted to give (as some would say "small change") to the developing world in exchange for their enforcement of the economically more important intellectual property rights of copyrights, trademarks and patents?
Laurent Gaberell: "The rhetoric of biopiracy has emerged as a political discourse and strategy to counter the piracy rhetoric that MNCs used to justify the enforcement of stronger and stronger intellectual property rights in the geopolitical South. To sum up, Third World countries were saying "you call us the thief for stealing your intellectual property when in reality you are the thiefs you steal our intellectual property", as Martin Khor well puts it in the movie. This biopiracy rhetoric has proven very effective in putting the issues on the top of the political agenda. Yet it has its dangers too. And one of them is the one you refer too. If we are speaking about two problems of piracy, then why not make a deal: "small changes" in the IP system such as disclosure of origin requirements againts enforcement of strong standards in the Third World to protect the IP assets of developed countries. It is a dangerous deal because I am really not sure it would benefit developing countries and moreover these are very diferent problems. On one side you have the patenting of innovations that originated in the geopolitical South while on the other side you have the use of IP protected innovations produced by MNCs. Third World countries are not appropriaiting the innovations of MNCs through IP, they are using it. But the North not only copies the innovations of the South but also appropriates it through IP. The problem is very different. I think Third World countries would be very ill advised to make such a deal. They have the legitimacy to ask for both the protection of their resources and knowledge, and the right to copy IP protected assets of the North in the name of their needs for development."

IP Dragon: Why wasn't a representative of the People's Republic of China included in the documentary?
Laurent Gaberell: "No representative of the People's Republic of China appears in the movie for the simple reason that there were no indigenous peoples delegates or representants of minorities of China present at the IGC. And the idea of the movie was to give an opportunity to indigenous peoples' delegates of various part of the world to share their experiences and perspectives. It was not the intention of the documentary to interview state representants or members of official delegations. So it is not a discriminitation against China, it is just that no representatives of any country was interviewed for this movie."

IP Dragon: Why is the movie relevant for China?
Laurent Gaberell: "For the importance of traditional medicinal knowledge there. China might not be part of the most megadiverse countries of the world, but it has accumulated an impressive quantitiy of knowledge about the medicinal properties of its biological resources, and that knowledge is of very strategic and economic importance in the context of the biotech revolution. So the question that the movie asks for Bolivia is also relevant for China: how not only to protect our knowledge and innovations of being appropriated but also how to use it and develop it in a way that is really beneficial to the people and to the country."

IP Dragon: Can you tell anything China-related in relation to this movie?
Laurent Gaberell: "I have read about the strategy that China is currently experimenting to protect its TK, namely the patenting of this knowledge, especially its traditional medicinal knowledge and formulations. The advantage of this strategy is that the patents can then be enforced through WIPO in countries like the US or in Europe, something a national sui generis system is currently not able to do. What is not clear to me however is who owns the patent. The State? Chinese companies? Individuals? Traditional comunities?"

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