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Protecting Genetic Resources on the Deep Ocean Floor
Alex Steffen, 25 Jun 05

The deep ocean is home to a diversity of life quite different from that found anywhere else on the planet. This makes it of real interest to bioprospectors. While commercial exploitation of deep sea genetic resources is a ways off still, such exploitaion could bring real problems, from the enclosure of genetic rights to the destruction of vulnerable deep sea habitat.

Sam Johnston, one of the authors of a new study on the issue, says it is precisely because deep sea bioprospecting is just getting started that the time is right to create a legal framework for its conduct: "We have a window of opportunity. The issues are much easier to deal with before commercial interests become heavily vested in the hunt for deep-sea genetic material."

But what can be done?

The study, Bioprospecting of Genetic Resources in the Deep Seabed -- produced by the United Nations University's Institute for Advanced Studies -- examines the various possibilities and pressures and proposes creating a new institution to safeguard the deep sea's biological treasures, possibly under UNCLOS:

Under the regime of common heritage of humankind, deep seabed genetic resources would not be subject to private appropriation, should only be used for peaceful purposes, and would be managed by an international institution. The benefits ensuing from the utilization of these resources should also be shared with humankind as a whole. ...

A new institution... could be set up with the mandate to adopt conservation measures, authorize or receive notification of access to deep seabed genetic resources, act as a focal point for the transfer of technology and information exchange, as well as the designated authority to receive samples of resources collected, negotiate benefit-sharing arrangements, and supervise a system of inspections...

International, public domain, deep sea eco-cops: that'd be a cool job. The Steve Zissou in me can easily imagine deep-dive submersibles with flashing police lights, chasing biopirates through the hot plumes and black smokers of the ocean floor...

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More than mere legal frameworks are called for -- this is something that requires and deserves broad public exposure

Posted by: E M on 25 Jun 05

The chinese economy does not have the softly softly approach to energy consumption which in my view is leading to overdevelopment in areas where the economy is not so sustainable .I do not think the chinese model is the elusuve third way at all , it's just growth in a rushed manner much like bypassing car suspension design( macpherson struts or double wishbones) and developing electronics to tweak a car's handing and ride based on a leaf spring setup with air suspension. If the electronics goes bust , there won't be any manual temporary fix available which would be catastophic in the case of 2 billion people . We should all go back to the drawing board and develop more naturally and only by this way will we preserve our cultures, identity and of course our ecology for the generations to come because we will all have the knowledge and the resourses to switch to that manual temporary adjustments in times of economic busts or unsustainability . Thanks ( this is a reply to two earlier topics )

Posted by: akin bamgbaiye on 28 Jun 05



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