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This is what happens when pharmaceutical research laboratories want to have access to the rights to exploit a plant known in Peru since Inca times.
The Incas used to believe that the MACA, « the queen of the Andes », improved virility and fertility. Today, the maca is greatly appreciated among the peasants of the high plateaus for its nutritional qualities. Now western researchers have found that this tuber has antioxidant and anti-cancerous properties. This discovery was drawn to the attention of pharmaceutical industry. Many foreign laboratories are now trying to lodge patent applications for this precious plant, thus depriving the Peruvian workers of an important livelihood. It has lead to a conflict between the World Trade Organisation and the signatories of the Convention on Biological Diversity who wish to avoid natural resources being plundered in countries where ecological balance is fragile.