BRASILIA – President Dilma Rousseff signed into law on Wednesday a controversial measure that will make it easier for firms to commercialize Brazil’s rich biodiversity.
“It is a law to promote development, but it will not leave the peoples behind,” Rousseff said at the signing ceremony, vowing that the indigenous communities who possess “all the wisdom” about the natural resources of Amazonia will be compensated when those resources are exploited for profit.
The legislation drastically simplifies the process for companies to obtain licenses to use natural resources from Amazonia or conduct research, even in territories reserved for the indigenous people.
At the same time, the law requires firms that develop products based on Amazon fauna and flora to pay the equivalent of 1 percent of sales into a fund to be used for environmental protection projects and assistance to communities.
One of the most controversial provisions in the law cancels all outstanding fines levied for “bio-piracy,” allowing state-owned Embrapa labs to avoid paying nearly $70 million for violations of the previous legal framework.
FarmaBrasil, an association representing most of the country’s major pharmaceutical companies, hailed the new law.
The group’s president, Reginaldo Arcuri, said this week that red tape and the fear of fines had prompted companies to abandon projects to develop new cures based on Amazonian plants.
“Now,” Arcuri said, “those industries that interrupted the development of new medications and others that were yet not in that market” are ready to implement plans that could lead to the investment of as much as 350 million reais ($116 million) over the next year.