Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

(Bio)piracy in Brazil and elsewhere

Biopiracy=stealing (indigenous) knowledge without proper compensation or credit in return.

Today’s New York Times carries a fascinating story about Marc van Roosmalen, a primatologist credited with discovering five species of monkeys and a new primate genus, who has been sentenced to nearly 16 years in a Brazilian jail.

van Roosmalen, one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” in 2000, is charged with, among other things, taking monkeys from the forest without permits and offering to name new species after wealthy donors — a practice that is historically common in science, as the Times article points out.

Scientists are rallying to his defense, and 287 of them have signed a petition protesting his sentencing and saying it is indicative of the trend of government repression in Brazil. The government is apparently going overboard in its attempts to prevent biopiracy and, some say, making an example out of van Roosmalen.

This is all well and good. But this article is essentially a rehash of one that appeared in Nature three weeks ago. As anyone who works for scientific journals knows, this is par for the course. Articles that appear in Nature and Science routinely come out slightly modified in newspapers like the Times. And I suppose that’s fair enough. But my complaint here is that nowhere in the article is the acknowledgement that Nature first reported the story.

I’ll let the irony wash over you.

P.S. I particularly like the picture that ran with the Times article of this snake. Very eye-catching.



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