16 Oct 2004

Samoa tree deal draws fire from enviromentalist

8:22 am on 16 October 2004

A leading Samoan environmentalist has criticised a deal with American researchers over the medical benefits derived from local plant extracts.

The former director of Samoa's environmental group, the O Le Siosiomaga Society, Clark Peteru, has cast doubt on the agreement signed by Samoa and the University of California, Berkeley, last month.

Under the agreement, the university and government get a 50-50 share of any royalties from prostratin, a compound extracted from the bark of the mamala tree.

Scientists around the world are aiming to isolate prostratin's gene sequence and clone it because of its potential to force the AIDS virus out of hibernation so that it can be attacked by drugs now available.

But Mr Peteru describes as galling the talk of Samoa having sovereignty over its genetic resources.

He says the decision to claim ownership over the chemical was made without consultation with the people of Samoa.