There's gold in that there test-tube

 

Ten years ago, we ran a story about green groups suing the National Park Service over its plans to allow "bioprospecting" in Yellowstone. Private companies have made millions from heat-resistant microbes they've collected from the park's thermal features (for example, Thermus aquaticus produced an enzyme used in DNA fingerprinting).

Now, the Park Service is proposing a plan that will allow it to cash in on such discoveries -- and green groups are suing again, this time because the agency's proposal is overly expensive and doesn't provide transparency, reports the Jackson Hole Daily. The plan would allow the parks to sign benefits-sharing agreements with companies for any profits they derive from research on park micro-organisms and other resources.

 

“This really is a very poor plan,” said Beth Burrows, president and executive director of the Edmonds Institute. “It has enormous potential to be abused without enormous potential to bring in money.”

Burrows said cost and transparency are two of the main problems.  “It’s likely to cost more in implementation and oversight than it will ever bring in,” she said. “It will also be very costly in terms of public backlash when the public understands that there really isn’t transparency here.”

Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said the final plan allows more transparency than earlier proposals and keeps secret only information that companies would be able to protect under laws such as the Freedom of Information Act.

Several conservation groups, including Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, recently sent a 10-page letter to NPS director Jon Jarvis protesting the plan.

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