Climate change, global market and mechanisms of access and control over biodiversity

Climate change, global market and mechanisms of access and control over biodiversity

By Walter Chamochumbi (1)

It is estimated that the global market for biodiversity resources is currently around more than 900,000 million dollars and continues to grow. Its degree of importance is such in the design of policies, strategies and research in technological and adaptive development and innovations in the food, health and environmental services field that they arouse great economic-commercial interests for the transnational industry, striving to take advantage of these resources without restrictions. of any kind. Industrialized countries are also struggling because there are forms of private and monopolistic property over forms of life, essential products for human subsistence, biological, chemical, biochemical-based technological processes or basic and applied scientific knowledge of these resources. Thus, from the north, developed countries have been applying and testing different pressure mechanisms and modalities: some subtle, through international technical cooperation agreements; and other patents, through commercial mechanisms of clear political-economic connotation and very serious socio-environmental implications for southern countries; in addition to the prohibited methods that, outside the law and international agreements, are imposed through biopiracy and the direct extraction of biological resources.

To the extent that biodiversity plays a fundamental role in preserving the life of the planet and regulating the balance between ecosystems and species, it is necessary to sustainably manage this natural capital. Megadiverse countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, among others, face great challenges to take advantage of their comparative advantages and generate new possibilities of alternative development for their peoples, because in their scope the millenary presence of multiple cultures and indigenous peoples, whose contribution to humanity has been -and continues to be- fundamental in the development of valuable knowledge and experiences in the management and conservation of the region's biodiversity, thereby awakening the interest of economic power groups and mafias who want to achieve their access and control.

The foregoing reminds us of an old discussion between the conservationist and developmentalist currents, which from the 1980s with the process of economic globalization and the discussion on the paradigm of sustainable development regained relevance. It happens that many countries in the region opened their markets and relaxed their internal policies and the mechanisms for regulating and controlling the trade of goods and services. Since then, badly by imposition and / or by political conviction of their governments in office, they applied the neoliberal recipe book of multilateral organizations with the aim of inserting their national economies into the global market and growing steadily, but in the process subordinating their policies internal laws and even their sovereignty over the natural resources they possess and over caring for the environment. In fact today this is not a matter of exclusive concern of the policies applied by the traditional right-wing governments, but also of those of the left: Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, who, under the controversial argument of a social political pragmatism , have been promoting extractivist projects for natural resources, subordinating environmental considerations and a sustainability approach to market rules and economic growth.

What happened in 2006 with the rounds of trade negotiations between the United States and the member countries of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), initially called Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and later Trade Promotion Agreements (APC), and that were conducted bilaterally by the US negotiating team with the teams from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, made it evident for the CAN member countries the imposition of a bilateral negotiation strategy before that of a subregional bloc, limiting from the beginning of the negotiation possibilities of the Andean countries. However, beyond the discussion on the need for trade liberalization and the particular conditions in which the governments of each country set their national political objectives, priorities and trade negotiation strategies, the tremendous asymmetries between the parties were notorious. negotiators on key issues: agricultural subsidies or patents on biodiversity and intellectual property, or on the issue of generic drugs.

According to the so-called trade agreements, the conditions that are usually “imposed” at these negotiating tables respond first and foremost - and above all - to the internal needs of developed countries: the case of the United States and its specific interests regarding resources natural ii. Hence, their foreign policy reflects this: that is, they assume energy resources, the environment and food security as a matter of national security4. It is also known of his interest in the biodiversity of the Amazon region, which due to its exceptional value also arouses the greatest interest of the world community. Researchers and civil society organizations have been warning that the US, through its environmental organizations, have been insisting on the old thesis that in order to conserve the Amazon it should be declared as a "common good of humanity", since its internationalization would result a target of great interest for US geopolitical purposes in the region5.

The global market then becomes a recurring scenario of asymmetric relations of economic-commercial and political power between the countries of the North and the South, because the former apocryphally conceive that the biodiversity resources that the latter possess should be considered as “Common Heritage of the Humanity ”6. In other words, from their particular ethnocentric vision of the issue, developed countries assume that poor or developing countries must accept that the biodiversity they possess is considered as a non-exclusive public use asset, facilitating its use by humanity in a free. This perception not only pretends to ignore the work of thousands of years of knowledge achieved in the selection and improvement of plants and animals by native peoples and local communities, but also tries to obviate the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the countries that possess such resources.

Under the protection of global economic rationality, industrialized countries and transnational companies seek the greatest possible benefit from the use of these resources7, to continue developing various products: new plant varieties, improved seeds, pesticides, medicines, etc., and to declare them private property subjects of exclusive intellectual property rights of these companies. Thus, they market them without any restriction, making huge profits for it. And even more serious, then selling them to the southern countries who previously contributed their biodiversity "free".

Among the control strategies or mechanisms that have been operating over biodiversity resources are the so-called Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). And it is generally known that patents, plant variety rights or others are granted to so-called "official innovators", that is, those who develop new technologies or products whose inventions are officially recognized by the IPR system. , as in the case of companies that operate in the market today. However, along the way the so-called “unofficial innovators” are marginalized, that is, the Andean countries and indigenous and local communities, whose work in the conservation of biodiversity is only recognized symbolically without assigning them any rights to ownership over it.

If IPRs on biodiversity are established, as has been the case in fact - and arbitrarily - with numerous cases of biopiracy promoted or tolerated by industrialized countries8, the livelihood of thousands of native peoples and local communities will continue to be affected, and the continuity of the development of their traditional activities: gathering, hunting, fishing, agriculture and the like, putting their cultures and ways of life in their territories at serious risk9. Especially now with the serious effects and impacts that climate change and extreme climate variability have been causing in different areas: malnutrition, epidemics and new diseases, disasters and greater poverty.

The lack of state policies and specific laws and regulations -or, if they exist- their factual non-application by governments, constitutes one of the greatest obstacles to achieving an adequate framework for the protection and conservation of biodiversity in the region against economic power groups, mafias and public sector corruption. New spaces for dialogue and effective political will of governments are required, collecting the demands and initiatives of indigenous organizations and mobilized civil society actors, to advance around truly inclusive policies and strict compliance with international conventions, norms and regulations. , as well as strategies for approaching and consulting local populations for their participation in decision-making.

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