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Indigenous Knowledge and the Search for Medicine

Controversy in Chiapas


Author(s)

Angela C. Oviedo
School of Environmental and Sustainability Science
Kean University
Patrick R. Field
Department of Biological Sciences
Kean University
pfield@cougar.kean.edu
Daniela J. Shebitz
School of Environmental and Sustainability Science
Kean University
dshebitz@kean.edu

Abstract

This case study is based on a real scenario in which a high-profile ethnobotanical study in Chiapas, Mexico, ended when local and international organizations accused the managing researchers of biopiracy. Students will explore how the Maya International Cooperative Biodiversity Group (Maya ICBG) project shifted from one of promise to one of controversy. The case addresses a variety of topics including the ethics of prior informed consent, rights to indigenous knowledge, biopiracy, and the intersection of indigenous communities, national governments, researchers, companies, and funding agencies. The case is presented as a progressive disclosure in which students read information on the real-world situation and then address perspective-oriented questions that are distributed to students in stages following the chronological development of events. The case is appropriate for undergraduates majoring in anthropology, sustainability science, environmental science, or biology and is suitable for courses in ethnobotany, medicinal botany, anthropology, bioethics, ecology and conservational biology. It could also be adapted for an AP or IB biology course in secondary education.


Objectives

  • Understand the complexities associated with the bioprospecting process.
  • Explore the Maya ICBG controversy and why the ethnobotanical project failed.
  • Comprehend issues related to the laws and regulations of prior informed consent when working with indigenous communities.

Keywords

bioprospecting; biopiracy; traditional ecological knowledge; TEK; Maya ICBG; prior informed consent; PIC; Chiapas; Mexico; ICBG; ethnobotany

Topical Areas

Ethics, Policy issues, Regulatory issues, Social issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Interrupted

Language

English

Subject Headings

Ecology  |   Environmental Science  |   Natural Resource Management  |   Medicine (General)  |   Public Health  |   Botany / Plant Science  |   Anthropology  |  


Date Posted

2/1/2018

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