A Mars subsidiary called BioN2 had signed an agreement with a village to share financial benefits from the maize’s commercialization. That village turned out to be Totontepec, a Mixe indigenous community in the mountains of eastern Oaxaca… The UC Davis/Mars researchers received a certificate of compliance with the Nagoya Protocol, an international agreement aimed at compensating indigenous communities for their biological resources and traditional knowledge.
Sounds good, right? But questions remain.
Still, the situation surrounding Totontepec’s maize raises complex questions about how indigenous communities equitably benefit when research scientists and multinational corporations commercialize local crops and plants. Should Totontepec’s maize turn out to be a miracle, self-fertilizing crop whose genetic traits can be replicated worldwide, will the community’s Mixe people receive a significant long-term share of profits, which could potentially number in the millions of dollars? How does Nagoya ensure that the rights and interests of small indigenous communities are safeguarded when their leaders negotiate complex deals with international lawyers and executives? And, not least, when a valuable plant is found throughout a region, is it fair for a single village such as Totontepec to reap financial benefits from its maize while neighboring communities with identical or similar maize receive nothing?
These questions, and others, are discussed in the article, which is really a model of its kind, courtesy of Martha Pskowski.