Since 2009, I have worked with the Global Commission on Biological Control and Access & Benefit Sharing of the International Organisation for Biological Control to raise awareness of the issues relating to biological control which may be affected under the Convention on Biological Diversity’s access and benefit sharing protocol which was finally agreed at COP10 in Nagoya, Japan, in October last year1.
The IOBC Commission attended various background meetings, produced a report for the Global Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture2, followed by a Forum Paper in the journal BioControl3 and various news items culminating in a World View page in Nature4 the month before the Nagoya meeting. Basically, we put the case that biological control is a public good, that countries that supply biological control agents are also importers of biological control agents, that the best way forward would be to continue the 100+ years history of free multi-lateral exchange of biological control agents between countries as non-commercial research under any future access and benefit sharing protocol, and that benefit-sharing should be based on shared research activities.
Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur, is reported to have applied for permits to introduce a colony of endangered lemurs to his British Virgin Islands (BVI), Mosquito and Necker. Having “rescued” the island of Mosquito from purchase by a hotel chain in 2007, his intention was to turn his £10 million Caribbean tax haven into an ecological showcase, a luxury hideaway for the mega rich, with plans for Balinese-style, carbon neutral villas whilst “cultivating and supporting the biodiversity, then introducing habitats (such as rainforests) for people who will live in symbiotic form”.
The fanciful whimsy of the rich and famous is nothing new, however this controversial proposal has hit the headlines in BVI because it would appear that Branson has been granted import permits by the Natural Resources and Labour Minister, Hon. Omar Hodge, against the recommendations of technical groups in the Agriculture and Conservation sectors and in contravention of Territory laws. The decision is being contested by the Ninth district elections contender, Lorie Rymer and a petition is reported to be in circulation and will later be submitted to the Governor Boyd McClearly, who is appointed by the Queen and exercises executive authority on her behalf. Meanwhile, Minister Hodge is standing firm but has apparently alienated members of the community by stating on local radio that he “doesn’t have to answer to anyone because he is the Minister”.
(Ring-tailed lemurs by Woodlouse, Flickr Creative Commons)