How indigenous people are standing up for their rights - the
experience of the San in Southern Africa
The peoples of the San in Southern
Africa have been using a plant called Hoodia for centuries. On hunting
expeditions and when food is scarce, it staves off the sensation of hunger.
Now industry wants to capitalise on this appetite-suppressing effect: churning
out a mass-market hungercurbing drug, in the form of diet pills or slimming
bars, promises to generate sizeable profits.
What about the San? Are they
victims of biopiracy? The active ingredient of Hoodia was used and patented
without their knowledge. But they stood up for their right to a piece of the
pie. The agreement they have managed to conclude assures them of a share in
the profits. This is quite a success. But if all the provisions written into
binding international treaties had been complied with, the San would be even
better off today.
Author: Uwe Hoering
Publisher: EED and WIMSA, 2004