Carlos Jared got into hot water trying to ship this kind of velvet worm out of Brazil.

Carlos Jared got into hot water trying to ship this kind of velvet worm out of Brazil.

Carlos Jared

Brazil decriminalizes efforts to turn its biota into gold

Scientists in recent years have run afoul of a law aiming to clamp down on what Brazil perceived as rampant pillaging of its biological resources. After wrangling over how to fix the statute, in which officials sought to balance the interests of scientists, the agricultural industry, and biotech firms with those of indigenous populations demanding compensation for traditional knowledge, Brazil President Dilma Rousseff last week signed a law that is raising hopes among scientists. Like its predecessor, the new "biodiversity law" regulates research on "genetic resources": an all-encompassing term covering everything from genes and proteins to oils and fragrances. It sets rules for sharing benefits with indigenous peoples when R&D leads to a product, such as a drug, shampoo, energy drink, or industrial enzyme, while eliminating bureaucratic hassles and encouraging biodiversity research. The scientific community has greeted the new law with a sigh of relief.

To read the full story, see the 29 May issue of Science.