In an interview published in the Peruvian newspaper Gestión Diario, Carlos Mazal, the Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), stated that Peru is a leader in the fight against biopiracy. “El Perú es ejemplo de lucha contra la biopiratería,” Gestión Diario (Sept. 2, 2012). Mazal, who was in Lima to meet with several government officials, praised Peru’s intellectual property system and the work of INDECOPI, the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property.
Mazal also called attention to the fact that Peru–one of only 17 biologically “megadiverse” countries–also “is the only country in the world that has a commission against biopiracy.” He said that the National Commission against Biopiracy (established pursuant to Ley N° 28216 (May 1, 2004)) “functions well despite the fact that it is still not well structued.” According to Mazal, the existence of the commission enabled Peru to negotiate the inclusion in its 2006 Free Trade Agreement with the United States of an “Understanding regarding Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge.” In the “Understanding,” both Peru and the United States recognize the importance of obtaining prior informed consent as a condition of access to genetic resources under the control of appropriate government authorities. The parties also acknowledge that “access to genetic resources or traditional knowledge, as well as the equitable sharing of benefits that may result from use of those resources or that knowledge, can be adequately addressed through contracts that reflect mutually agreed terms between users and providers.”
Mazal stated that Peru’s Minister of Foreign Trade, José Luis Silva, has asked WIPO to support the creation in that country of an observatory for the protection of traditional knowledge and genetic resources. Although the terms of reference for the observatory have not yet been established, the general idea is that Peruvian as well as foreign investigators would work together to catalog the biodiversity that exists in the country and determine the manner in which it may be accessed.
When asked how Peru can take advantage of its biological diversity and traditional knowledge, Mazal replied,
There is something that must be made clear. Peru’s biodiversity must be protected and exploited in a responsible manner, because it could contain the cure for many illnesses, and this is not just about sharing it with the world, but also about receiving benefits. It may be that there aren’t sufficient funds to develop products, but there is an alternative in which the state could enter into a partnership with the private sector.
Mazal explained that indigenous communities “are the owners of ancestral knowledge, whereas the state is the proprietor of genetic resources.” In seeking to exploit those unique resources, he said, the parties “must reach agreements that benefit all the involved parties, [and] although some communities have juridical personality, it will be difficult for them to negotiate with the transnational” companies.