Module 3: Intellectual Property and Indigenous Knowledge

http://portal.unesco.org/es/ev.php-URL_ID=6220&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

Simply marrying up science and traditional/indigenous knowledge is not an option.  Too often, science has sifted through the sandbox of traditional knowledge and taken what was seen as valuable (bio-active ingredients in plants that can be used for profit) and discarded the rest.

Often discarded was the cultural and spiritual base of traditional knowledge.  Science has long claimed to be culture free, and logical and thus the best world view, when in fact this in itself is a cultural assumption!  We need to “listen to our own historians and philosophers of science, then we must acknowledge that science has another face that is not the one most commonly presented for public consumption. Science has its own historical, social and cultural context. From its very origins, science is anchored in a dualistic worldview that separates Culture and Nature, sets humans apart from other living organisms, and opposes the rational and the spiritual. This will to separate, reduce and compartmentalise is both science’s force, as witnessed by enormous advances in Western technology, and its weakness” as can be seen by the problems that modern science has gotten us into recently!

What also needs to be considered are the intellectual property rights of the owners of the knowledge.  Just like the patent of a drug must be respected, even though it can save lives, so to must the intellectual property of a group of indigenous peoples.

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