There's Gold in Them There Geysers
In a ruling that could give a boost to “bioprospecting,” a federal judge this month upheld a precedent-setting agreement under which a biotechnology company will pay Yellowstone National Park for the right to search its geysers and hot springs for commercially valuable microbes. Some enviros and biotech critics had filed suit to stop the deal, charging that it violated rules prohibiting the “sale or commercial use” of natural resources in national parks, but the judge dismissed the suit. Diversa Corp. has agreed to pay the National Park Service about $100,000 over five years plus royalties of 0.5 percent to 10 percent on sales of any commercial products derived from its research. In the past, scientists were generally free to take samples of plants, animals, or microbes without providing compensation, but now national parks and many countries are demanding to be paid by bioprospectors.