Guaraní communities claim that companies such as Coca Cola and Pepsi use their ancestral knowledge without giving them retribution. Multiple international companies are taking advantage of the sweetening properties of stevia without recognizing that it is knowledge produced by the Guaraní people of Paraguay and Brazil.
By José Díaz
Servindi, July 17th, 2019.- A few weeks ago, two of the largest transnational companies in the world, Coca Cola and Pepsi presented new versions of their products sweetened with stevia. The demand of the global market for healthier drinks led these companies to put aside the sugar for the sweetener plant of South American origin, ignoring the intellectual property rights of the indigenous people who discovered its use.
It is for this reason that the different indigenous communities of the Guaraní nation, who inhabit the territory of Paraguay and Brazil, and who discovered the sweetening properties of the stevia plant, have claimed companies that have taken advantage of the knowledge generated by them to receive fair compensation.
"The Guarani, who are the ones who discovered the sweetening characteristics of stevia, are not receiving benefits of economic exploitation of their knowledge, as required by the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol," said Laurent Gaberell, responsible for biodiversity and intellectual property of the organization Public Eye.
However, Coca Cola and Pepsi are not the only transnational companies that have taken advantage of stevia's sweetening properties. Advised by civil organizations, the Guarani communities have contacted several companies to reach an agreement for the distribution of benefits. One of the deals that would be close to closing, would be with the Swiss company Nestle.
#Paraguay's #Guarani people: "Though the #land is rightfully ours, we would gladly pay the ransom and set it free from those that have done it nothing but harm. To live off the land and see it restored, that is our dream.” #biopiracy stevia & #landgrab https://t.co/uOT2g2gd5W
— Judyth Mermelstein (@GadflyQuebec) 17 de julio de 2019
Guaranies in the Fight
The position of the Guarani communities is to defend the ancestral knowledge produced by them and that has been usurped by the market economy. For them, the use of the stevia plant, which in Guaraní is called ka'a he'e, is part of the intellectual property, so they expect fair retribution from the many international companies that are taking advantage of their knowledge.
" We have gathered here at the Yasuká Vendá—the sacred spot where our great eternal grandfather, Ñane Ramõi Jusu Papa, laid his footsteps and created the Earth—to talk about the corporate usurpation of our traditional knowledge of the ka’a he’e. These companies took our [traditional knowledge] and are using it to make vast profits," declared the Guaraní producer Luis Arce during a public assembly where the communities discussed their position on the commercial use of stevia.
It is estimated that only with the use that Coca Cola and Pepsi will give to the plant, it would be generated up to $492 million per year.
However, this is not the first case of usurpation of indigenous knowledge and intellectual property in recent years. A few weeks ago it was known that big fashion companies copied designs of indigenous Mexican people, something that was denounced by the authorities of Mexico. The tendency of the market economy to usurp indigenous production is becoming a new threat.
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— Servindi (@Servindi) 15 de julio de 2019