By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned on Wednesday, May 20th, the new Biodiversity Law, which regulates access to the country’s genetic wealth. President Rousseff said the new law would allow Brazil to advance in the biotechnology race. The law, while receiving praises from government agencies, has also been criticized for its bias towards large companies and industry.

Tribes like the Guarani-Mbyas now with the biodiversity law will receive royalties for their knowledge of the forests, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Tribes like the Guarani-Mbyas will receive royalties for their knowledge of the forests with the biodiversity law, photo by Tania Rego/Agencia Brasil.

“We were able to create a law which combines our capacity to develop, to include persons in this development and generate innovation from research in science and technology,” said President Rousseff during the signing ceremony.

According to the Environment Ministry the new law establishes that companies will deposit one percent of the net income received with the sale of the finished product or reproductive material derived from the genetic wealth into a fund to be used by indigenous communities as payment for their knowledge of the land and its resources.

“We are guaranteeing that there will be a favorable, friendly environment for those who have the traditional knowledge to receive royalties [from that knowledge]; we are guaranteeing that researchers will not have restrictions in their research and we are guaranteeing that companies will be able, without conflicts, use this knowledge,” explained President Rousseff.

The scientific community, says the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, will be able to conduct researches without having to endure a long authorization process and the threat of their investigations being seen as bio-piracy. “I guarantee researchers that they will not longer be bothered,” said Minister Aldo Rabelo. “They will no longer suffer the bullying of having their plants submitted into analysis.”

But not everyone is happy with the new law. Maria Emilia Pacheco, President of Consea (National Council on Food and Nutritional Security) said during a radio interview to Radio Nacional da Amazonia that the industry dominated the debates surrounding biodiversity issues. “More than 300 inquiries were conducted with industries. The traditional communities had little chance to give their opinion. They should have been heard since they are the true owners of the genetic wealth,” she said.

“This law is better than the rules we had previously, but is very distant from what it should be,” said Manoel Cunha, director of the CNS (National Council of Extraction Workers in the Amazon) to news agency Agencia Brasil.

The biodiversity bill was introduced in order to comply with commitments made during the Eco-92 Environment Summit in Rio de Janeiro. These issues were later reiterated during the Rio+20 Conference.

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Lise Alves is a Carioca who spent much of her life in the U.S., and now lives in São Paulo. She writes mainly national politics and business for us, with an occasional travel story.

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