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Indigenous people should get proceeds of plant knowledge.

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Senator John Cherry Australian Democrats Agriculture Spokesperson

June 24, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/452

Indigenous people should get proceeds of plant knowledge The Beattie Government needs to ensure that the benefits of biodiscovery arising from Indigenous knowledge of native plants and animals goes to the Indigenous custodians of that knowledge and not to the Queensland Government, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats’ Agriculture spokesperson and Queensland Senator John Cherry said he welcomed the release of the Government’s Biodiscovery Bill but would be seeking urgent talks with the Government to ensure that the rights of Indigenous people in Queensland are protected.

“The Democrats forced changes to the national Plant Breeders Rights Scheme to require more consultation with Indigenous people to ensure that they share any economic benefits gained from their ancient knowledge of native plants and animals,” Senator Cherry said.

“Indigenous Affairs spokesperson, Senator Aden Ridgeway, was successful in gaining a commitment from the Government for an Indigenous person to be appointed to the Plant Breeders Rights Advisory Council.

“We would have gone further, but the amendments proposed by myself and Senator Ridgeway were blocked by the Labor Opposition and the Government.

“The Queensland Government needs to ensure that the rights of Indigenous people are properly protected and that they share in the benefits of biodiscovery and biotechnology.

“Australia has one of the worst records of any industrialised country for biopiracy, being responsible for 80% of the documented cases of ‘dubious’ plant variety claims by the Canadian based Rural Advancement Foundation.

“The Beattie Government must ensure that any benefits collected from Queensland plants discovered as a result of Indigenous knowledge are shared fairly with the groups that discovered them.

“With almost 4% of the world’s biodiversity unique to Queensland, the potential for disposal of Indigenous plant and animal knowledge for commercial gain is immense and needs to be carefully controlled.

“Any economic benefits flowing to Queensland from biodiscovery should be shared with Indigenous people who are, after all, the most economically disadvantaged group in Queensland,” Senator Cherry concluded.

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