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Bioprospecting is
  • the collecting and cribling of biological samples (plants, animals, micro-organisms)
  • and the collecting of indigenous knowledge to help discovering genetic or biochemical resources
Bioprospection is intended for economic purposes (e.g. new drugs, crops, industrial products)

Before 1992, biological resources were considered common heritage of Humankind. Scientists could take samples from anywhere in the world without any specific permission.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992) establishes sovereign national rights over biological resources. Though not granted property upon natural resources, biodiversity-rich countries are committed to :

In short, bioprospection has to be allowed by the biodiversity-rich country and must bring as much benefit to it (and to the communities that traditionally use these resources) than to corporations (usually from developed countries) and universities collecting the bioresource.

Bioprospecting must follow the new rules of international treaties and national laws. More specifically, it must respect

  • informed consent (the source country must know what will be done with the resource, which benefits will be shared and must give permission for collecting)
  • fair agreement[?] on benefit sharing (benefits may be, support for conservation, research, equipments, technologies, transfert, formation, royalties)
Bioprospection can become a type of biopiracy when these principles are not respected. Some even argue bilateral agreements of bioprospection between a country or a community and a corporation are a sort of juridical validation of biopiracy toward traditional communities whose values and rights are not considered and respected.

See also : Intellectual capital -- Natural capital

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