The majority of genetic raw material used in western laboratories is obtained from crops and wild plants in undeveloped countries, whose farmers typically reap no reward from the financial gains made by western corporations in their genetic patents.
Indigenous knowledge of plants and their patterns of use assisted colonial botanists in South Africa to identify species of commercial potential, the benefits of which were reaped solely by foreign companies. There is currently substantial interest from foreign companies in the genetic resources of South Africa, and firm evidence that sampling guided by traditional knowledge substantially increases the efficiency of screening plants for medicinal treatments. However, there is no legal protection in South Africa for traditional knowledge, which is often not confined to a single community or person. Furthermore, conventional intellectual property right regimes do not correspond well to the innovations of traditional cultures.
2. The patenting of life forms and seeds by transnational corporations (TNCs) will also rob local communities of their traditional knowledge and tremendously increase prices of food, medicine and other essentials.
3. Today, tribal and rural women and men conserve and improve biodiversity for public and commercial good at personal cost. No further time should be lost in ending the present unethical situation where such primary conservers live in poverty, while those who utilise their knowledge and the products of their in-situ on-farm conservation culture become prosperous.