Indigenous Knowledge and the Search for Plant Medicine: A Teaching Case Study Involving Prior Informed Consent with the Maya ICBG

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 - 11:15
, Daniela - Kean University
, Angela - Kean University
, Dr. Patrick

In 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. The opposition claimed that commercially using medicinal plants conflicts with collective traditions and religions of the Maya. 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. This case study is appropriate for undergraduates in various majors pertaining to ethnobiology and aims to teach about the complexities associated with bioprospecting and the reasons for an ethnobotanical project’s success or failure.