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Genetische modificatie en diefstal van zaden

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Vierhonderd jaar geleden gebruikte John Rolf tabakszaden die verdonkeremaand waren uit West-Indië om de eerste winstgevende export van Virginia te ontwikkelen, en ondermijnde daarmee de tabakshandel door de Caribische koloniën van Spanje. Meer dan tweehonderd jaar later nam een andere Engelsman, Henry Wickham, zaden van een rubberboom mee van Brazilië naar Azië – via dat illustere koloniale instituut de  Royal Botanic Gardens in Londen – en legde daarmee de basis voor het uiteindelijke ter ziele gaan van de rubber-hausse in het Amazonebekken.

In een tijd van ongereguleerde export van planten was alles wat nodig was om levens en zelfs hele economieën te beschadigen een koffer vol zaden. Dankzij de ontwikkelingen in de genetica, zal hier eerdaags wellicht nog minder voor nodig zijn.

Zeker, er zijn de afgelopen tientallen jaren grote vorderingen gemaakt in de regulering van het opzettelijke internationale vervoer van genetisch materiaal van dieren, planten, en andere levende zaken. Vooral de Conventie inzake Biologische Diversiteit van de Verenigde Naties uit 1992 heeft geholpen om de rechten van de verstrekkers van genetische hulpmiddelen – zoals (idealiter) de boeren en oorspronkelijke bewoners die waardevolle genen hebben beschermd en verzorgd – veilig te stellen door het verankeren van nationale soevereiniteit over biodiversiteit.

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