Learning from the Past: Reflecting on the Maya-ICBG Controversy in the Classroom
AbstractIn the 1990s, the Maya-ICBG (International Cooperative Biodiversity Group) was one of the major bioprospecting projects in Chiapas, Mexico and was designed to incorporate traditional knowledge into pharmaceutical research. The researchers had hopes of benefiting Indigenous communities economically and technologically while conserving plants and traditional knowledge. Unfortunately, the project experienced local and international opposition who accused the project of exploiting Indigenous people and privatizing their knowledge. We present a teaching module in the form of an interrupted case study in which participants learn about the ethnobotanical study that shifted from one of promise to one of controversy. The history of the development of the case study over the past decade is told from both a faculty and a student perspective. The purpose of this perspective article and of our case study in general is to bring the conversation of ethics to the forefront of ethnobiology. Although the Maya-ICBG project was brought to a close in 2001, the case study is still relevant in both a historical context and as a means to discuss ethics and Prior Informed Consent.
AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). 2000. University of Georgia to host 7th International Congress of Ethnobiology in October. Available at: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2000-10/AAft-UoGt-0510100.php. Accessed on June 26, 2017.
Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Conservation. 2001. Proyecto de biopiratería en México cancelado definitivamente [web page]. Available at: http://www.etcgroup.org/es/content/proyecto-de-biopirater%C3%Ada-en-m%C3%A9xico-cancelado-definitivamente. Accessed on June 26, 2017.
Anderson, E., B. Berlin, Berlin, E. A., and J. R. Stepp. 2002. On Maya Medicine and the Biomedical Gaze. Current Anthropology 43:789–793.
Andrzejewski, A. 2010. Traditional Knowledge and Patent Protection: Conflicting Views on International Patent Standards. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal/Potchefstroomse Elektroniese Regsblad (PER/PELJ) 13:94–125.
Bannister, K., M. Solomon, G. Dutfield, J. Velásquez Runk, and W. McClatchey. 2004. Addressing Ethical and Legal Issues in Ethnobiology: A Deliberative Dialogue on the ISE Draft Guidelines for Research. Panel presentation at the 9th International Congress of Ethnobiology University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom.
Berlin, B., and E. A. Berlin. 2004. Community Autonomy and the Maya-ICBG Project in Chiapas, Mexico: How a Bioprospecting Project that Should Have Succeeded Failed. Human Organization 63:472–486.
Berlin, B., E. A. Berlin, E. J. C. F. Ugalde, L. G. Barrios, D. Puett, R. Nash, and A. M. González-Espinoza. 1999. The Maya-ICBG: Drug Discovery, Medical Ethnobiology, and Alternative Forms of Economic Development in the Highland Maya Region of Chiapas, Mexico. Pharmaceutical Biology 37:127–144.
Bjorkan, M., M. Qvenild. 2010. The Biodiversity Discourse: Categorisation of Indigenous People in a Mexican Bio-prospecting Case. Human Ecology 38:193–204.
Convention on Biological Diversity. About the Nagoya Protocol [web page]. Available at: https://www.cbd.int/abs/about/default.shtml. Accessed on January 8, 2018.
Garcia, J. 2007. Fighting Biopiracy: The Legislative Protection of Traditional Knowledge. Berkeley La Raza Law Journal 18:5–28.
Hardison, P. 2000. ICBG-Maya: A Case Study in Prior Informed Consent. The Monthly Bulletin of the Canadian Indigenous Caucus on the Convention on Biological Diversity. Available at: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2005/april/tradoc_122179.pdf. Accessed on January 8, 2018.
Herreid, C. F. 2005. The interrupted case method. Journal of College Science Teaching 35:4–5.
International Society of Ethnobiology. History of the Code of Ethics [web page]. Available at: http://www.ethnobiology.net/what-we-do/core-programs/ise-ethics-program/code-of-ethics/brief-history/. Accessed on January 8, 2018.
International Society of Ethnobiology. 2008. ISE Code of Ethics [web page]. Available at: http://www.ethnobiology.net/wp-content/uploads/ISE-COE_Eng_rev_24Nov08.pdf. Accessed on January 8, 2018.
Nath, J. L. 2005. The Roles of Case Studies in the Educational Field. International Journal of Case Method Research and Application XVII 3:396–400.
Nigh, R. 2002. Maya Medicine in the Biological Gaze: Bioprospecting Research as Herbal Fetishism. Current Anthropology 43:451–477.
Oviedo, A. C., P. R. Field, and D. J. Shebitz. 2018. Indigenous Knowledge and the Search for Medicine: Controversy in Chiapas. National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY. Available at: http://libweb.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/collection/detail.asp?id=960&case_id=960. Accessed on January 8, 2018.
RAFI (Rural Advancement Fund International). 2000. Stop Biopiracy in Mexico! [web page]. Available at: http://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/archive/2000/8836-rafi-stop-biopiracy-in-mexico-24102000. Accessed on January 8, 2018.
Rosenthal, J. 1997. Integrating Drug Discovery, Biodiversity Conservation, and Economic Development: Early Lessons from the International Cooperative Biodiversity Groups. In Biodiversity and Human Health, edited by F. Grifo and J. Rosenthal, pp. 281–201. Island Press, Washington, DC.
Rosenthal, J. 2006. Politics, Culture, and Governance in the Development of Prior Informed Consent in Indigenous Communities. Current Anthropology 47:119–142.
Soto, J. C. 2000. Pukuj: Biopirateria en Chiapas. San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.
Copyright (c) 2018 Daniela Shebitz, Angela Oviedo
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain ownership of the copyright for their content and grant Ethnobiology Letters (the “Journal”) and the Society of Ethnobiology right of first publication. Authors and the Journal agree that Ethnobiology Letters will publish the article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0), which permits others to use, distribute, and reproduce the work non-commercially, provided the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal are properly cited.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
For any reuse or redistribution of a work, users must make clear the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
In publishing with Ethnobiology Letters corresponding authors certify that they are authorized by their co-authors to enter into these arrangements. They warrant, on behalf of themselves and their co-authors, that the content is original, has not been formally published, is not under consideration, and does not infringe any existing copyright or any other third party rights. They further warrant that the material contains no matter that is scandalous, obscene, libelous, or otherwise contrary to the law.
Corresponding authors will be given an opportunity to read and correct edited proofs, but if they fail to return such corrections by the date set by the editors, production and publication may proceed without the authors’ approval of the edited proofs.