Published: Wednesday 15 December 2004

His genes for US $85 on the in Indigenous Community Genes Brazil/USA

Karitiana and Suru communities in Brazil are incensed, and so are many others. Genetic material from members of these communities can now be purchased for us$85 on the Internet, courtesy the Coriell Institute, New Jersey, usa. The institute holds the world's largest collection of human cell cultures. The Brazilian government is demanding an end to the sales. It has asked Interpol to intervene. Coriell, on its part, claims that the cells are for use for research purposes only.

The sale of genetic material for research is legal under us law. The National Indigenous People's Foundation of Brazil (funai) claims that for more than a decade, blood samples taken from the Karitiana and Suru have ended up in the hands of foreign companies or institutions -- even though the agency did not approve any sample collection efforts. Any research -- Brazilian or foreign -- in indigenous territories must be approved by the country's National Council on Scientific and Technological Development. "Besides, funai is supposed to consult with indigenous groups before any research begins. The research can proceed only if the communities give their consent. Even then it must remain under our supervision," says Claudio Romero, funai's coordinator of studies and research. The Coriell Institute did not follow this procedure.

Meanwhile in Sydney, Australia, a man was charged under the country's biodiversity conservation law after allegedly trying to smuggle out parrots' eggs in his underpants. The fifty-year old man, due to board a flight from Sydney to Zurich, was detained after a search by the Sydney airport staff.

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