University of Georgia to host 7th International Congress of Ethnobiology in October

October 05, 2000

ATHENS, Ga. -- The first-ever meeting in the United States of the International Congress of Ethnobiology will be held at the University of Georgia Oct. 23-27, bringing together scientists and indigenous people from around the globe to discuss "Ethnobiology, Biocultural Diversity and Benefits Sharing."

"We believe having the Congress here is a signal event for the University of Georgia and indeed for the U. S.," said Brent Berlin, UGA professor of anthropology and one of the coordinators. "We intend to face head-on several difficult issues relating to benefits sharing resulting from biodiversity research. We believe there will be an important sharing of ideas during this week."

Since its founding in 1988 in Belem, Brazil, the International Society of Ethnobiology has met as a Congress every other year. Meetings have been held in Kunming, China (1990); Mexico City (1992); Lucknow, India (1994); Nairobi, Kenya (1996); and Whakatane, New Zealand (1998). Berlin served as president of the international society from 1990-1992.

This year's Congress will focus on pressing questions about the role of ethnobiology -- an interdisciplinary field that draws researchers from such disciplines as anthropology, botany, zoology and pharmacology, among others -- in maintaining biocultural diversity and ensuring equitable benefits sharing and open dialogue with traditional and indigenous research collaborators.

Detailed information about the Congress, including registration fees, is available online at

The Congress will be preceded by a conference on "Ethnobioprospecting and Benefits Sharing," which is open to the public and also will be held at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 20-21. An international panel of 10 distinguished scholars representing a variety of perspectives will be challenged to define the most important unresolved issues concerning bioprospecting. The work of this conference will be the subject of further discussion in related sessions during the Congress. The conference is supported by a grant provided by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at UGA.

The offical opening of the Congress will be held in the courtyard of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 23. The first plenary session will be held in the center at 10:30 a.m. with presentations by Henry Lickers of the Mohawk Nation and Larry Merculieff, an Aleut. Concurrent sessions begin at 1 p.m. and will cover such topics as innovative wisdom, benefits sharing and bioprospecting, and the ethical implications for indigenous peoples of the Human Genome Project.

Participants from Mexico, Canada, Thailand, China, India, Kenya, the Solomon Islands, France, Great Britain, Slovenia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Belice, Brazil and other nations will contribute to the international inclusiveness of the Congress, according to Fausto Sarmiento, program coordinator for the Congress and co-director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at UGA.

In addition to presentations and panels, the Congress will include demonstrations of traditional crafts and herbalism and performances by Maya and Native American actors, dancers and musicians. The Congress concludes with a Street Fest in downtown Athens on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. featuring musical groups and the Maya theater group Lo'il Maxil.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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