University ends fight over biopirated fungi
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- Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 07:13:56 -0800 (PST)
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University ends fight over fungi
BY NICK NUTTALL, ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT
A BRITISH university that was accused of "biopiracy" after holding on
to strains of Far Eastern fungi has agreed to return them.
Portsmouth University, which has possibly the world's best collection
of fungi, was given 200 specimens collected by a former scientific
employee in Thailand five years ago.The Thai Government did not, at
the time, have the advanced storage facilities needed to keep them at
home. But earlier this year the Biotec Institute in Thailand requested
their collection back after investing in special deep-freeze
The fungi are considered valuable as possible sources of new cancer,
herpes, malaria and tuberculosis drugs. But Portsmouth refused the
request, saying there was no agreement to repatriate the strains and
that there was confusion over the ownership.
The row triggered an international wrangle with British scientists
working for the Thai institute accusing the university of theft and
breaking agreements on biodiversity agreed in Rio in 1992.
The British Council was lobbied in Thailand and the institute there
threatened legal action against Britain.
Yesterday, however, Sakarin Bhumirattana, head of the National Centre
for Genetic Engineering (Biotech), said they had been told that the
fungi were coming home. "This is very good news," he said.