Give And Take In The National Parks

<p>Despite objections, the National Park Service will continue to allow "bioprospecting" in the parks - a practice some environmentalists say opens the door to exploitation, but which scientists contend has very little environmental impact.</p>
April 19, 2007, 1pm PDT | Nate Berg
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"The National Park Service (NPS), looking for new dollars to support its research and conservation initiatives, has proposed 'bioprospecting' for a fee, ensuring that research done at the parks comes back to the federal government in the form of a percentage of the profits. Environmental groups have joined together in opposition, claiming that bioprospecting undermines the mission of the national parks and opens the door to potential harm, done in secret, to the parks' fragile ecosystems."

"Recently, a deal between Yellowstone and Diversa Corporation was uncovered in which the latter would be allowed to remove organisms and develop patentable products from Yellowstone in exchange for a yearly fee and a percentage of profits. That lawsuit led to a Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS), released last November, concluding that NPS would continue to permit commercial bioprospecting as long as the government agency shares in the benefits, an amount to be determined based on the success of a product."

"A scientist in the biotech industry says bioprospecting usually has little impact on the environment. 'It's dipping a test tube into the hot pool or spooning dirt into a plastic bag,' he says. But allowing bioprospecting could lead to more insidious alteration of the environment, he says."

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Published on Sunday, April 15, 2007 in E, The Environmental Magazine
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