The need for blockchain in fighting bio-piracy in forest rich countries

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Take a look at Indonesia. Its rainforests are home to some of the highest levels of biological diversity in the world. Many sources credit Indonesia as the most species-rich country on earth. Spread over 17,500 islands, Indonesia contains the world’s third-largest area of the rainforest after the Amazon and Africa’s Congo Basin. Its biodiversity is at risk.

Biodiversity loss will come at a greater cost for our economies –pollution, habitat loss, and other invasive species will affect sectors from agriculture, forestry, tourism and public health just to name a few. Most at risk will be low-income populations, which rely more widely on natural resources for their income and livelihoods.

Blockchain technology, if combined with the Internet of things (IoT), satellite imagery, drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can provide effective and efficient data collection and management as playing a key role to curb bio-piracy and the plundering of the rainforest’s rich resources. Bio-pirates are corrupt entities that take biological resources from rich places like the Amazon and profiteer from these resources. The countries of origin are left with both depleted resources and broader environmental problems, but no share from their profits.

Bio-piracy, on the other hand, can be defined as a problem resulting from a distributive conflict between provider and user countries, coupled with the practical difficulties of monitoring the utilization of genetic resources in a transnational context, and the pervasive scientific uncertainty about the nature and extent of the problem. The Nagoya Protocol predominantly focuses on compliance management while lacking the necessary enforcement provisions for deterring non-compliance through effective monitoring and sanctions.

Data collection and data management platforms through the blockchain mechanism are important tools in light of inadequate enforcement of the Nagoya Protocol. In 2018, the Amazon Bank of Codes initiative was introduced. It is a collaboration between the World Economic Forum, the Earth Bank of Codes and the Earth Biogenome Project. This initiative aims to assign and classify biological data from every species of plant and animal in the Amazon Basin, logging their genetic sequences on the blockchain.

Registering these assets on the blockchain makes it possible to record and track the provenance and use of these natural resources. In theory, it would thus be possible to trace where these resources go and create a platform for the fair sharing of the benefits with the country of origin.

In the industry 4.0 revolution, blockchain might provide promise in protecting biodiversity due to secure and transparent characteristics. At least we noted one small innovative step towards saving our planet. What we need now is the political commitment from relevant parties to concrete the action.

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