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Cablegate: Goe Requests Genetic Resources Contract From

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

102222Z Nov 05




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. The GOE has denied an American research company
the right to publish data drawn from research on the
biodiversity of microbial communities in the Galapagos
Islands. The Ministry of Environment (MOE) determined that
Venter Institute, which had obtained official permission to
enter Ecuadorian territorial waters to conduct the research,
must comply with a number of requirements prior to
publishing. Foremost among these is the signing of a
genetic resource access contract that conforms to an Andean
Community (CAN) resolution governing the transfer of genetic
material. Of the over 30 American vessels conducting
research in the Galapagos in the past 5 years, this is the
first one that has faced such demands from the GOE prior to
publishing. End Summary.


2. The GOE has required Venter Institute to enter into a
genetic resource access contract prior to publishing data
collected in the Galapagos Islands in 2004. Venter
requested the permission to publish in an August 30, 2005
letter to the MOE. The research project, the purpose of
which was to evaluate the biodiversity of microbial
communities, had received GOE permission to enter Ecuadorian
territorial waters and conduct research. The MOE's October
25 response, signed by Minister Alban, indicated that Venter
must complete a number of requirements prior to the granting
of permission.

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3. This is essentially the third set of rules within which
Venter has had to work. Prior to their arrival in February
2004, Venter obtained through the MFA all appropriate
approvals necessary to conduct their research. Then, once
in the Galapagos, their research vessel was not allowed to
leave with their samples until Venter signed a Memorandum of
Understanding with the MOE. This MOU was signed in March
2004 and stipulated that the parties would neither pursue
nor exercise intellectual property rights over the genomic
data. It also stipulated that Venter would have to request
permission from the MOE prior to publishing. The current
letter from the MOE establishes yet another set of
requirements by which Venter must abide.


4. The main requirement is that Venter enter into a genetic
resource access contract. With respect to this contract,
the MOE references Decision 391 and Resolution 415 of the
Andean Community (CAN), signed on July 2, 1996 and July 22,
1996, respectively. The MOE's letter also indicates that
the MOU was not the appropriate avenue through which to
conduct their 2004 research (despite the fact that the MOU
was imposed upon Venter by the MOE itself). The MOE states
that no further use of the research results can be made
until Venter has signed the required contract. Venter is
unaware as yet what the content of the contract might be.

5. Beyond the genetic resource access contract, the MOE is
requires that the entire trip report -- laboratory analyses,
preliminary interpretations, and the genetic sequences of
the collected samples -- be translated into Spanish. In
addition, they are requires that Venter present the findings
to a technical group from the Galapagos National Park (GNP)
and the MOE.

6. In the letter, the MOE also advised that Venter collect
any copies of the trip report it might have distributed to
other GOE institutions, specifically naming the MFA and the
Navy's Oceanographic Institute. This, despite the
requirement by the GOE in authorizing the research to
provide a copy of the report to the MFA. Claming that these
other institutions do not have the competency to handle
genetic resource matters, the MOE noted that in the future
the normal channel for disseminating genetic information
within the GOE should be the MOE.


7. We believe this is the first American research vessel
that has confronted such demands from the GOE. Normally,
American research vessels have formally petitioned the GOE -
- and in particular, the MFA -- for permission to enter
Ecuadorian waters and conduct research. As was the case
with Venter's project, such access has been routinely
approved by the MFA provided a final trip report is shared
with the MFA. Research institutes have never failed to
provide the trip reports.

8. According to Venter, these sort of demands also are new
to them. Venter conducted research in 15 countries during
their 2004 research trip. Venter has received the right to
publish from all of them. Venter is reviewing the letter
and deciding how to respond.

9. This is the first practical application we have seen in
Ecuador of the Andean Community legislation on biological
diversity. We intend to inform U.S. researchers requesting
clearances via the Embassy of these requirements in the
future in order to help them avoid unpleasant surprises. It
seems reasonable to expect that such requirements will have
a chilling effect on potentially valuable research in mega-
diverse Ecuador.


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