Intellectual Ignorance

- Kazuo N. Watanabe,
BOST Inst., Kinki Univ., Wakayama, Japan
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 108.

Intellectual property rights associated with living organisms and products thereof contain various aspects of ethical, political and economical issues on the biotechnology related R&D and commercialization globally as frequently discussed (1, 2). In addition, conventional agricultural, forestry and fishery biological resources are being oriented for IPR protection for the original owners, original creators and benefit sharing under the Convention of Biological Diversity (3).

A survey made among Japanese college students in natural science majors indicated an impression on stagnant capacity building in the area at the higher education or very low motivation of students in Japan (Fig. 1) (4). A high proportion of the college students at so-called prestigious national and private universities do not recognize or have perception on the significance of the IPR issues on biotechnology and genetic resources on which they major. Even, there is more perception than previous survey conducted by Macer in 1991 (5).

Some explanation may be associated with: 1) the limited range of precincts in the academic interests of university faculty members, 2) poor allocation of teaching responsibility compared with the research time commitment of professors; and 3) consequently the narrowly-focused educational system rather than making coverage of diverse contemporary topics for general information especially at the level of the graduate schools in Japan. Of course, Japanese pundit teachers are eager to find out what they are working on science and would like to share the academic rapture with their apprentices. In contrast, there have been reported that some Japanese biologists who should have lead such initiatives of scientific motivation at good will, had been accused as bandits by intentionally, but may be with ignorance of the contemporary issues, intruding into fauna for plant expeditions in the countries rich with the diversity of many species of interest (6). These facts have been public knowledge at the country of such an incidence, on the other hand, as yet the Japanese public is not aware of the fact of how some Japanese academics make unsophisticated and unethical conducts in neighborhoods. Do teachers have to be educated first before the college students get correct knowledge's? At least a faction of the Japanese industry concerns has made a systematic survey on how to make the IPR issues well enlightened in academic institutions and how to materialize their science and technology into IPR protection and industrial uses (7).

References and Notes
1. Intellectual Property Rights in Agricultural Biotechnology, F. H. Erbisch, K. M. Maredia, Eds. (CAB International, Wallingford, 1998).
2. M. Silva, Science 280, 657 (1998). G. Hardin, Science 280, 682-683 (1998). M. A. Heller and R. S. Eisenberg, Science 698-701 (1998).
3. Convention of Biological Diversity.
4. Survey with twelve universities consisting of seven national/prefectural and five private universities. Fifteen faculties/departments associated with biological sciences were chosen. The sampling were made at two different periods from October and December, 1997 and September -November, 1998. A total of five hundred undergraduate students per period was sampled with average of thirty per department/faculty. It took average twenty min to answer the questionnaire with multiple choices and background information.
5. D. R. J. Macer, 5. Economic Issues. In: Attitudes to genetic Engineering: Japanese and International Comparisons. (Eubios Ethics Institute Christchurch), 87-93 (1991).
6. Patenting, Piracy and Perverted Promises,, June 12, (1997).
7. A extensive survey and analysis were made and Japanese document was published by Japan Bioindustry Association (JBA) (1998).

Figure 1: Attitudes of Japanese university students to intellectual property rights associated with biotechnology. Comparisons to Macer (1991), ref. 5.

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