CBD fails to recognize Indigenous peoples as owners of a vast amount of the world’s genetic resources. In fact, the CBD only recognizes states as sovereigns over genetic resources and ignores the proprietary rights of Indigenous peoples in the same territories. In the international debates, discussions about Indigenous peoples’ rights are recast in watered down or bracketed language. For example, the CBD refers to “indigenous and local communities” instead of “Indigenous peoples.” (1) Thus, it ignores Indigenous peoples’ status as rights holders and instead demotes Indigenous peoples to the status of “stakeholders,” a category that includes corporations, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and just about any other non-state entity.

That said, what does benefit sharing mean for Indigenous peoples? What incentive do we have to participate in these agreements, particularly if our ownership rights are sidelined or marginalized? What are the implications of participating in benefit sharing arrangements for genetic resources? How do Indigenous peoples move beyond the narrow market-oriented models being presented to them? These are some of the questions to be discussed in this chapter.

I. Conflicting Sovereignties over Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples’ struggle for self-determination is occurring on many fronts, globally, nationally and locally. The corporate hunt for genetic resources within our territories raises new difficulties for those maintaining permanent sovereignty over natural resources that have long been sought after by colonial governments. Intellectual property rights are being used to turn nature and life processes into private property. Once deemed private property, genetic material becomes alienable; that is, it can be bought and sold as a commodity. This, in the eyes of many Indigenous peoples, is an attempt to legalize thievery, a thievery that we recognize as “biocolonialism” — the extension of colonization to the biological resources and knowledge of Indigenous peoples. (3) Below, we discuss Indigenous people’s right to permanent sovereignty over genetic resources and the conflict raised by the CBD’s proposal for an international regime on access to our resources and the sharing of benefits that may arise thereafter.

READ MORE at:  Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism.

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