Biopiracy and research in Indonesia

Indonesia has passed a new law to protect the country’s natural resources from biopiracy. Biopiracy means exploiting natural plant and animal species or genetic resources illegally. It is often associated with seeking patents to restrict their natural or general use. 

Indonesia's Ministry of Environment estimates that the country's medicinal plants alone are worth US$14.6 billion if they were marketed as finished products. The new law seeks to cover the following:

  • Subject matter includes biodiversity materials, local specimens, social or cultural assets.
  • Research permits are required 
  • Material transfer agreements are required to take samples overseas for research 
  • Prohibitions on removal of or damage to biodiversity samples
  • Rights to take criminal action by the government
  • Fine, imprisonment and blacklisting of foreign researchers who steal biodiversity samples  

Past instances of removal and research overseas, by foreign researchers and scientists, without MTAs and working visas are the chief complaint the law seeks to stop. However some scientists worry it will drive foreign scientific cooperation out of Indonesia elsewhere. The current research permit rules are already thought to be overly complex.