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Apr 27, 2004

Policy sought for bio-prospecting

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The term “biodiversity prospecting” is not an everyday conversation topic in Belize; but as industrialized countries continue to search for newer and cheaper sources of pharmaceutical and agricultural products, researchers are taking to the forests and seas of developing countries around the globe. And since there are no mechanisms or legislation governing the systematic search for and extraction of biochemical and genetic information from natural sources, the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute has convened a series of meetings aimed at formulating a national policy for Belize. According to Information Specialist Tanya Williams Thompson, any policy regarding bio-prospecting in Belize must keep people at the forefront.

Tanya Williams Thompson, Information Specialist, C.Z.M.A.I.

“Presently Belize does not have the technology or the knowledge to harvest or to do bio-prospecting. Therefore, you?re looking at other foreign organisations. But we want to ensure that Belizeans do benefit from bio-prospecting.”

Janet Gibson, Marine Coord, Wildlife Conservation Society

“On the marine side there really is quite a considerable potential from many organisms. I know for example that work has been done on some of the plexora species; this is a type of soft coral that may well have anti-cancer properties, for example. The procedure obviously is something that is very long and tedious; a lot of chemical work needs to be done.”

Tanya Williams Thompson

“We want to ensure that not only the bio-prospectors benefit, but the people of Belize, both in terms of financial benefit and also in terms of having that technology and having that knowledge to probably do bio-prospecting ourselves.”

Another consultation will be held on Wednesday in Placencia.

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