Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Traditional Knowledge on Genetic Resources: Safeguarding the Cultural Sustenance of Indigenous Communities

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Traditional Knowledge on Genetic Resources: Safeguarding the Cultural Sustenance of Indigenous Communities

Article excerpt

Abstract

Traditional knowledge, generally defined as the long-standing traditions and practices of certain regional, indigenous, or local communities, constitutes a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices, and representations maintained and developed by peoples with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment. Recognition, protection and enforcement of the rights of indigenous communities to have continued access to biological genetic resources is quite related to the principle of sustainable and use of biological diversity crucial not only for the continued sustenance of their culture but also to protect their knowledge, acquired over thousands of years of experimentation and experience, about the uses biological resources can be put to particularly in medicinal and pharmaceutical preparations. The signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992 has brought international intention to intellectual property laws to preserve, protect and promote their traditional knowledge. CBD recognises the value of traditional knowledge in protecting species, ecosystems and landscapes, which are inextricably associated to the sustainable conservation and use of natural resources. On the other hand, the subsequent adoption of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1994 could be interpreted to contradict the agreements made under the CBD. This paper highlights the efforts to protect traditional knowledge in the midst of the dichotomy between CBD and TRIPS.

Keywords: associated traditional knowledge, indigenous communities, genetic resources, cultural sustenance, CBD, TRIPS

1. Introduction

Traditional knowledge is generally defined as the long-standing traditions and practices of certain regional, indigenous, or local communities encompassing the wisdom, knowledge, and teachings of these communities. It constitutes a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices, and representations maintained and developed by peoples with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment (Feng Shui Times, 2003). Considered as an asset, it focuses on the use of knowledge such as traditional technical know-how, or traditional ecological, scientific or medical knowledge. The Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (2005) defines traditional knowledge as,

"...developed from experience gained over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment, and transmitted orally from generation to generation. It tends to be collectively owned and takes the form of stories, songs, artistic expressions, proverbs, cultural events, beliefs, rituals, community laws, languages, agricultural practices, including the development of plant species and animal breeds, traditional know-how relating to architecture, textile-making and handicraft-making, fishery, health and forestry management."

Traditional knowledge basically refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of the indigenous and local communities globally. It is transmitted orally from generation to generation and developed from experience gained over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment. It is collectively owned and ranges from stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community laws, local language, to agricultural practices, which include the development of plant species and animal breeds. Traditional knowledge is primarily of a practical nature, mainly in agriculture, fisheries, health, horticulture, and forestry. Knowing what it contains and how it is acquired and held is fundamental to being able to make good use of the knowledge and to encourage all parties to be aware of the added value its use will bring (Alaska Native Science Commission, 2006).

The signing of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992 has brought international intention to intellectual property laws to preserve, protect and promote their traditional knowledge. …

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