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Biopiracy

Intellectual Property

 

Summary

This installation introduces the problem of Biopiracy. It is installed as a poster in the form of the front page of a newspaper. Biopiracy is a situation where people use indigenous knowledge of nature for profit without permission and with little or no compensation or recognition to the indigenous people themselves. In some cases, this knowledge is misused and the original users from the indigenous people are exploited, since businesspersons have patented the knowledge and prevent indigenous people from using it even though their knowledge is often their only means of earning money.

An example is bioprospectors drawing on indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants and subsequently getting this patented by medical companies without recognizing the fact that the knowledge is neither new nor was it invented by the applicant for the patent. In this way, companies deprive indigenous communities of their rights to use commercially the technology that they had once developed for themselves. Critics claim that these practices contribute to inequality between so-called developing countries that are rich in biodiversity and developed countries that host companies engaging in biopiracy.

Details

  • The installation in the form of a large poster (4 x 1 m) gives information about biopiracy in general and displays the specific case of the neem tree to illustrate the wider issue. The poster is designed in the style of a front page of a newspaper.
  • For our installation, we have chosen to give further information on the specific case of the neem tree. In the year 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American company W.R. Grace were granted a European patent on methods of controlling fungal infections in plants using a composition that included extracts from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which grows throughout India and Nepal.
  • In 2000 the patent was successfully challenged by several groups from the EU and India, including the EU Green Party, Vandana Shiva and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, using the argument that the fungicidal properties of the neem extract had long been known in Indian traditional medicine. W.R. Grace appealed against this judgement but lost the appeal in 2005.
  • The installation sheds light on MDG 7 (“Ensure environmental sustainability”) and MDG 8 (“Global partnership for development”). It informs visitors about problems with the transfer of indigenous know-how and the misuse of traditional indigenous knowledge. In addition, there is information about threats to natural biotopes as well as about the commercialization of nature.
  • The poster is placed on the wall next to other installations like the “Bamboo Architecture” installation, which is on a related theme since it also concerns intellectual property that could be misused in a similar manner.
Museo Mundial_CZ_Biopiracy_1

The giant poster is placed on the wall

Museo Mundial_CZ_Biopiracy_2

The poster is designed in the style of the front page of a newspaper

    Budget + resources

    Budet needed:

    Graphic design

    374 €

    Printing and framing

    477 €

    Translation into English

    96 €

    Transport of materials and installation in the museum

    451 €

    Total

    1398 €

    How to do it step by step

    1st Step:

    Choosing the topic

    At first we had to choose the topic for the tool. We chose the story about the neem tree, which is quite well-known and for which  sufficient information is available. This process was completed in two weeks.

    2nd Step:

    Gathering information

    At this stage, we had to prepare information and texts about the topic. We carried out research via the internet and libraries, and asked other people to undertake research and gather information about the case of the neem tree.

    After a month, we had found enough information and, therefore, wrote the text and started preparing the poster.

    3rd Step:

    Design and text

    The next step was to produce the design and final text for the poster.

    The poster was designed by a graphic designer, who also decided to make it look like a newspaper page. Consultations and cooperation with the artist took about two weeks.

    4th Step:

    Preparing the poster

    The designer finished the design and submitted it for approval. We made some changes and corrections to the text. There were several rounds of correction before we agreed on the final text. Furthermore, we had to overcome the challenge of only having limited space available to include all the information that we wanted  In total, this step took around three weeks.

    5th Step:

    Producing the poster

    The poster was printed together with other posters that were used in the same exhibition. Thanks to the consolidated order, we obtained reduced prices for all the prints. This step was completed in one week.

    6th Step:

    Installing it in the museum

    The poster was framed directly in the museum and was installed together with four other tools in the National Museum of Agriculture in Prague. The installation of the exhibition took about a week.

    Evaluation

    Ups & Downs

    Ups

    • The exhibition is really well-located where it can be seen by many people. Even though the topic might be of limited interest to people in the Czech Republic as the so-called developing countries are too far away in people’s minds, there were no problems in negotiating the use of this topic with the museum.
    • In the end, the museum staff were enthusiastic about the exhibition and keen to help us in any way possible. We were pleasantly surprised by this, given that this topic is controversial in the Czech Republic and we were unsure whether this would cause problems.
    • The negotiations with the printing house were also very open, with good will on both sides.

    Downs

    • The initial negotiations with the museum were fine, but some changes in personnel during the preparatory phase led to a misunderstanding: another exhibition was installed in the area that we had planned to use meaning that there was not enough space for our interactive tool.
    • We also made a serious mistake. We prepared, printed and framed a poster containing errors, which meant that we had to do it all again. Thanks to the good will of all participants, the additional costs were minimal. However, it showed us the importance of having the right managerial processes in place and of checking the final versions before they are sent for production.

    Feedback from visitors

    • Analysis is ongoing.

    Internet links + other sources

    Biopiracy in the Amazon: Different biopiracy case studies:

    www.sites.duke.edu/amazonbiopiracy/case-studies-of-biopiracy-3/

    Third World Network: The neem tree - a case history of biopiracy:

    www.twn.my/title/pir-ch.htm

    NZM: Website of the National Museum of Agriculture in English:

    www.nzm.cz/en/

    Educon: Summary of the topic:

    www.educon.cz/en/?id=137-biopiracy

     This website has been produced with the assistance of the European Union.
    The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the Museo Mundial project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

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