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Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 10:1-4 (2010)  -  DOI:

Science for profit. What are the ethical implications of bioprospecting in the Arctic and Antarctica?

David K. Leary1,*, David W. H. Walton2,**

1Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales, UNSW, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia
2British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK

ABSTRACT: The value of chemical compounds and their genetic sources in species from the polar regions is becoming widely recognised as a resource not yet fully exploited. Bioprospecting is a growing activity in the Arctic, where the states concerned are signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity, providing a national framework for ownership, management and control of the activities. In the Antarctic, no such framework exists, and with increasing interest in both microbes and marine species there are concerns that uncontrolled exploitation will damage biodiversity, inhibit scientific research and data exchange, and (through disputes) undermine the authority of the Antarctic Treaty. Papers in this Theme Section highlight the ethical problems of commercialisation of science in the Antarctic for both governments and individuals, and discuss the concept of exclusive reward in a global common, leading finally to a suggestion that a new legal instrument is needed to manage Antarctic bioprospecting for the future.

KEY WORDS: Exploitation · Biodiversity · Antarctic Treaty System · Bioprospecting

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Cite this article as: Leary DK, Walton DWH (2010) Science for profit. What are the ethical implications of bioprospecting in the Arctic and Antarctica?. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 10:1-4.

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