What do you understand by Bioprospecting? What are the main benefits and challenges associated with bioprospecting?

Approach

Introduce with explaining the concept of bioprospecting.

Explain the benefits associated with bioprospecting.

Explain the challenges associated with bioprospecting.

Conclude appropriately

Model Answer :

Biodiversity prospecting or bioprospecting is the systematic search for biochemical and genetic information in nature in order to develop commercially valuable products for pharmaceutical, agricultural, cosmetic and other applications. The phases of bioprospecting start with sample collection, isolation, characterisation and move to product development and commercialisation.

Benefits of bioprospecting:

The most important benefit is the medicinal properties of the plants and other organisms.Innovation is promoted through bioprospecting, helping countries to develop new pharmaceutical products. Even our indigenous medical system is heavily based on bioprospecting.

It also favours employment opportunities related to natural products.

The local community and business enterprises both benefit from the economic value of the plant and organisms. The Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992 ensures that the benefits derived are not abused by enterprises.

It creates an incentive to monitor and preserve biodiversity in order to avoid the risk of losing economic opportunities from competitors or extinction

Technology and knowledge transfer among countries is promoted through bioprospecting

Biodiversity conservation is boosted as local populations will become increasingly aware of the potential economic value of natural habitats.

Traditional culture and habits are preserved by rediscovering ancient native practices.

However, there are several challenges in this regard:

Bioprospecting is time-consuming which enhances the risk in terms of expected returns.There is no certainty of returns and success rate is very low.

Traditional knowledge bears the risk of biopiracy and intellectual property, especially for the countries who are not parties to Nagoya Protocol and where the local law enforcement is weak in this area.

Unequal capacities of host country stakeholders lead to unfair negotiation outcomes over benefit sharing. The negotiation of bioprospecting contracts can be difficult, including the determination of a fair price for exploration and commercialisation.

Bioprospecting involving marine environment is prone to legal risks, including of litigation in multiple jurisdictions or conflicts of jurisdiction like in Antarctica.

Unsustainable harvesting of resources and other negative environmental impacts can damage the biodiversity and environment.

The concerns can be largely dealt with stronger legal and enforcement mechanisms but the local community and the enterprises will have to work responsibly to ensure that the prospects of biodiversity are utilised sustainably.

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