Please distribute this to all that might be interested. Thanks.
BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY:EXPLORING THE COMPLEXITIES
March 25, 26 & 27
The organizers look forward to hearing of your interest in this
event, and welcome any comments (including criticism).
The University of ARIZONA
THE NATIONAL ENERGY LAW & POLICY INSTITUTE (NELPI)
UNIVERSITY OF TULSA
Director, National Energy Law and Policy Institute
Professor of Law, University of Tulsa, College of Law
3120, East 4th Place
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74104
e-mail: law_ldg at utulsa.edu
Hans J. Bohnert [Conference Co-Director]
Professor of Biochemistry, The University of Arizona
Biological Sciences West 516
Tucson, Arizona 85721
e-mail: bohnert at biosci.arizona.edu
The Local Organizing Committee:
Elizabeth Baker, College of Law.
David Galbraith, Department of Plant Sciences.
Conrad Istock, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.
Mari Jensen, School of Renewable Natural Resources.
Rita Manak, Office of Technology Transfer.
Juanita Quinn-Simpson, Department of Philosophy.
Robert Robichaux, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.
Edella Schlager, School of Public Administration and Policy.
Barbara Timmermann, College of Pharmacy.
BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY: EXPLORING THE COMPLEXITIES
The goal of the Conference on Biological Diversity is to explore,
within an interdisciplinary framework, the available national,
transnational, and international options capable of solving the
critical global problems arising from the loss of biological
diversity. In order to do so the conference will probe the
following areas: what is biological diversity?; is the loss of
biological diversity a problem?; what scientific measures can be
employed to stem the loss?; what socio-political measures can be
enacted to manage the loss?; do or can property rights protect
biological diversity? Particular emphasis will be given to the
nature and extent of the interface between intellectual property
rights and biological diversity.
In their papers provided in advance of the conference, keynote
speakers will provide an overview of the major issues and contro-
versies falling within their outlined subject area (see attached
agenda). These different subject areas will be covered in greater
depth in breakout sessions. Invited discussants will raise
additional issues, offer different viewpoints and guide the
discussion. In order to facilitate greater interaction, confer-
ence attendees are encouraged to indicate if they are willing to
make a contribution at the breakout sessions.
WHAT IS BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY?
Biological diversity refers to the variety and variability among
living organisms and the ecological complexes in which they
occur. Diversity can be defined as the number of different items
and their relative frequency. For biological diversity, these
items are organized at many levels, ranging from complete ecosys-
tems to the chemical structures that are the molecular basis of
heredity. Thus, the term encompasses different ecosystems,
species, genes, and their relative abundance.
Technologies to Maintain Biological Diversity, U.S. Office
of Technology Assessment, 1987.
Biological diversity possesses intrinsic value, in addition to
supporting human life which depends on the Earth's biological
resources. Our material well-being and prosperity depend on the
ability to utilize biological diversity; the ultimate source of
much of our food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. Moreover, the
protection of biological diversity addresses the continuation of
our cultural, psychological, and spiritual health.
DOES THE LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY CONSTITUTE A PROBLEM ?
If there is an ongoing, and possibly increasing, loss of biologi-
cal diversity, do such losses constitute a planetary problem?
The concerned claim that increasing losses of species and habi-
> compromise the prosperity of future generations and
their right to a sustainable environment;
> diminish possible food and medicinal sources for both
present and future generations;
> endanger our ability to develop additional scientific
insights into the workings of biological and ecological systems;
> reduce access to the cultural, spiritual and psycho-
social values of biodiversity;
> are wrong because humans have a moral obligation to
preserve the earth's biota.
The skeptics argue:
> that there is a lack of evidence that the extinction
rate is increasing and, therefore, the present rate of loss does
not warrant alarm;
> that species extinction is a part of the evolutionary
process; the current loss of species forms just another episode
in the story of life;
> that new technologies can compensate for some loss of
natural genetic diversity.
This question gives rise to a discussion of the following issues.
WHAT ARE THE SCIENTIFIC MEASURES CAPABLE OF SLOWING OR REVERSING
THE POSSIBLE DESTRUCTION OF BIODIVERSITY ?
Scientists from a variety of disciplines have suggested ways to
respond to the loss of biodiversity. The conference will explore
some of these, including the following:
Cataloguing. According to E.O. Wilson, "one of the key problems
of science as a whole," is the need to identify species, their
geographical ranges, biological properties, and possible vulnera-
bilities to environmental change.
Methods of preservation. For example, some advocate the perma-
nent preservation and storage of genes, or seeds, or tissues, or
embryos -- or even random species -- particularly for threatened
taxa or geographic regions.
Biotechnology. By generating better and new food sources and
processes, genetic engineering is transforming humanityUs ability
to obtain novel useful substances, plants, animals, and micro-
Changing land-use patterns. Deliberations about land-use should
include considerations about biodiversity preservation. More
education and research is needed about optimal land use and how
to utilize less environmentally harmful methods of income and
resource generation. Changes in land-use should also consider
preservation and restoration of ecosystems.
WHAT ARE THE SOCIO-POLITICAL MEASURES CAPABLE OF REVERSING
POSSIBLE DESTRUCTION OF BIODIVERSITY ?
The gene-rich centers of biodiversity such as rain for-
ests, coral reefs, and wetlands are frequently located in tropi-
cal regions. The countries in these regions are often economi-
cally deprived and depressed, and as a result, may have few
resources or incentives to preserve their biota. Historically,
international economic markets have provided disincentives for
preservation. To deal with this problem, arguably, it is neces-
sary to create:
Global obligations to protect biological diversity. Internation-
al instruments have established the principle of differentiated
responsibility insuring that the burden of paying for protection
falls on the developed, not the developing nations. What is the
nature and/or extent of this responsibility?
Recognition of the cultural and property rights of indigenous
peoples. To what extent should such rights be structured to
protect the traditional ways of life of indigenous peoples? How
might such rights permit change while preserving the ancient
knowledge of indigenous peoples?
Institutional recognition of traditional mechanisms for managing
common pool resources. In many traditional societies, one or
more natural resources were managed as common pool resources.
However, national governments may not recognize the traditional
system of property rights or management. Recognition of these
traditional management systems may help maintain both the culture
and the resource.
DO PROPERTY RIGHTS PROTECT BIODIVERSITY?
Property rights are inextricably interwoven into the current
discourse on the protection of biodiversity. The conference will
seek to clarify the relevant issues on the following topics:
Ownership. Should seeds, breeding lines, non-domesticated spe-
cies, and other genetic resources be treated as the common herit-
age of humankind? Should they be treated as the property of
those countries in which they are found or located? Or should
they be treated as property of the finder?