David F. Rodriguez-Mora
“Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are rights endowed and enforced by juridical institutions to protect a person’s exclusive use of a legally endorsed creation. They encompass patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. While IPRs’ eligibility criteria comprehensively assess the suitability of a postulated invention for legal rights, they favor general knowledge over Indigenous Local Knowledge (ILK) creations and often disregard ILK contributions to general knowledge creations.”
May 22, 2022 10:40 am
During his undergraduate studies, David researched the traditional uses of plants by rural and Indigenous communities in Colombia, Panama, and Italy. His passion for the conservation of the biocultural heritage of his homeland led David to document over 300 traditionally used plant species in the Colombian Eastern Andes mountain range for his final undergraduate dissertation, a work edited as an illustrated field guide entitled Los usos tradicionales no maderables de las plantas de Santa María (Andes Colombianos). After graduation, David led the restoration of Sweet Bocas S.A., a 10-acre tropical coastal village in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama. He led a team of 10 workers, propagating over 10,000 plants to implement a sustainable tropical landscape with edible and medicinal gardens, fruit forests, and ornamental gardens. David has also led the implementation of other gardens and food forests for Indigenous and rural peoples in Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and the US through various non-profit organizations. Additionally, David has explored multiple cultures and landscapes throughout 19 different countries, which has made him fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian.
David has instructed and co-instructed ten undergraduate-level courses in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and the United States. As a former Duke University and Harvard University instructor, he has taught ethnobiology and tropical biology in the cloud forests and rainforests of Costa Rica and climate change and community health at the Harvard Chan C-CHANGE Youth Summits. Similarly, he has led five biocultural expeditions to Costa Rica, Belize, Ecuador, and Peru through the National Geographic Society, the New York Times, and Putney Student Travel. Last year, David completed his master’s studies in plant biology at North Carolina State University, furthering his ethnobiology research in Colombia. His dissertation research centered on the diversity of the most important entheogen of the Amazon basin, Yajé (a.k.a. Ayahuasca), and on the uses of plants in spirituality and shamanism among the Colombian A’i (a.k.a. Cofán) Indigenous people. His work also intersected with A’i epistemologies and protocols, Intellectual Property Rights, and research ethics.
Currently, David is conducting his doctoral studies in environmental anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His doctoral research will expand the scope and geographic range of his master’s research to better understand the Colombian A’i territorial, cultural, and intellectual resources and help his A’i colleagues protect them. He seeks to integrate methodologies and theories from the social (ethnography) and natural (ethnobotany) sciences to provide a nuanced and more complete understanding of the Yajé socio-ecological power relations and their change across generations. He plans to address why and how the Colombian A’i define Yajé knowledge and differentially select and use Yajé varieties, how these knowledge and selection patterns have temporarily and spatially spread, and their implications for the A’i sense of identity and value, subsistence, and Yajé conservation.
Intellectual Property Rights: Advancements and Future Prospects in Ayahuasca Research
Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) are rights endowed and enforced by juridical institutions to protect a person’s exclusive use of a legally endorsed creation. They encompass patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. While IPRs’ eligibility criteria comprehensively assess the suitability of a postulated invention for legal rights, they favor general knowledge over Indigenous Local Knowledge (ILK) creations and often disregard ILK contributions to general knowledge creations. Despite the broad recognition of ILK value, Western institutions still deem ILK as ‘unscientific’ or common heritage and employ this notion to justify the reluctance to recognize and confer IPRs to ILK. Unlike general knowledge, ILK exhibits problems with its precise differentiation, group identity and legal status, and well-developed markets, further complicating its recognition of IPRs. Moreover, IPRs are difficult and expensive to obtain, monitor, enforce, and preserve. As a result, IPRs have historically favored powerful economic groups’ creations in industrialized countries to the detriment of Indigenous peoples’ innovations and knowledge contributions, especially in developing nations. Rather than questioning ILK’s legitimacy, institutions urgently need to challenge and fix IPRs’ unequal function. In this talk, I problematize academia’s historical stance in Indigenous IPRs’ history, particularly the role of ethnobotany in Yajé (a.k.a., Ayahuasca) – Banisteriopsis caapi (Spruce ex Griseb.) C.V. Morton– applications, biopiracy, and bioprospecting. Then, I review institutions and measures that have been recently leveraged at regional, national, and international levels to provide and enforce Indigenous peoples’ economic and moral benefits for their knowledge applications. Finally, I call forth the active involvement of ethnobotany and academia in addressing the IPRs inequality challenges for Indigenous Yajé knowledge owners. I conclude by suggesting the application of measures in academia that may contribute to accomplishing Indigenous Yajé knowledge owners’ equality and the recognition of their IPRs.