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Biopiracy accusations are common in the world of biodiversity research. At the end of 2015, a French NGO accused researchers from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) of biopiracy. These researchers had applied for a patent for a natural bioactive molecule against malaria, the Simalikalactone E, isolated from Quassia amara L. (Simaroubaceae) leaves. This biopiracy allegation triggered a huge wave of attacks from the media and social networks, and vehement recrimination from political officials in French Guiana against researchers who have been accused of ethical misconduct, by stealing the traditional knowledge of indigenous people. These accusations were made in the contentious context of the ratification of the Nagoya Protocol in the frame of implementing the French law on biodiversity, nature and landscapes. So, in an atmosphere of heightened emotions it is crucial to understand the issues behind these accusations. We describe herein the genesis of our discovery, present the detractors' arguments, and discuss the consequences of such biopiracy denunciations for scientific research. We also address our concerns about the gap between rhetoric and reality and the real impact of the Nagoya Protocol on biodiversity conservation.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of ethnopharmacology
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A plant genus of the family SIMAROUBACEAE. Members contain quassinoids. Quassia simarouba has been reclassified as SIMAROUBA.
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