Traditional knowledge

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As traditional knowledge (sometimes referred to as "indigenous knowledge") is in the course of development for the protection of the international system of intellectual property called such knowledge in local communities has arisen and of these groups or certain ethnic experts (mostly verbal) preserved and is passed on.

A precise definition has not yet been agreed and is currently the subject of a working committee of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). At the current state of negotiations, a draft of a contract-like text is available in which both the definition of traditional knowledge and the legal positions resulting from it are to be regulated.

Finding a definition

Pink catharanthe , traditional plant medicine and potential cancer drug
Marcos Terena, indigenous representative of the "Institute for Traditional Intellectual Property" in Brazil, complains about the lack of an ethical code to protect against biopiracy : "We indigenous people have no way of having our traditional knowledge patented."

Despite the pending (legal) definition, the following characteristics of traditional knowledge can be determined:

  • Knowledge of the healing effects of plants (botanical and medical knowledge), knowledge of food plants, properties of soils, environmentally friendly and efficient cultivation strategies and biological pest control
  • The origins of the knowledge content lie in the distant past and can no longer be traced back
  • Much of the knowledge arises through observation and experience and is not questioned or understood analytically
  • A smaller part is the result of planned, traditional "science"
  • The knowledge is subject to constant adaptation and further development due to the changing environmental conditions ("traditional" must therefore not be understood as "unchangeable")
  • Usually oral transmission of the knowledge and frequent connection with ethnically religious ideas
  • In particular, non-industrialized cultures that live close to nature are carriers of traditional knowledge. To a much lesser extent, parts of the population of industrial society (e.g. Swiss alpine farmers, Frisian fishermen)
  • Endangerment of knowledge through destructive cultural change : in particular destruction of traditional social structures, replacement of traditional healers and loss of indigenous languages.

The Austrian Ministry of Life describes traditional knowledge in a simplified way as follows:

  • "Knowledge that, created in a traditional context, preserved and passed on to the following generations",
  • “Connected to a local community that identifies with traditional culture” and
  • "Is seen by the community as Traditional Knowledge".


According to the ethnologists Roy Rappaport and Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff , traditional knowledge is based on magical cognitive models that do not describe value-neutral, detailed and logical descriptions like modern science, but that, packaged as myths, influence people's behavior in a targeted manner in order to adapt to the To achieve the environment and maintain the stability of society. (→ see also cold and hot cultures or options )

Reichel-Dolmatoff , for example, writes about the knowledge of the Tucano Indians: "Such phenomena as parasitism , symbiosis , commensalism and other relationships between species have been well observed by them and are pointed out as possible methods of adaptation."

While knowledge of “ household remedies ”, crops and cultivation methods is generally known to all members of local communities, only a limited group of specialists (e.g. shamans , healers, midwives ) have extensive medical knowledge.

Traditional knowledge is closely linked to forms of economy that are thousands of years old .

Modern use

For the global market economy , traditional knowledge is an important source of innovation (e.g. in the pharmaceutical industry). Since the beginning of the 1990s there have been efforts to protect such knowledge in order to enable the (indigenous) authors to share in the profit from any profits that can be traced back to such knowledge. So far, however, there is still no binding legal basis, so that the industry generally makes high profits, while the benefits for the original sponsors do not materialize.

Austria was the first country in the world to register knowledge of traditional foods .


  • Anja von Hahn: Traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities between intellectual property rights and the “public domain”. = Traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities between intellectual property rights and the public domain (= contributions to foreign public law and international law. Vol. 170). Springer, Berlin et al. 2004, ISBN 3-540-22319-3 (also: Heidelberg, University, dissertation, 2002/2003).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Draft Articles on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge. WIPO document WIPO / GRTKF / IC / 18/7
  2. Caroline Ausserer (Heinrich Böll Foundation Brazil): Biotechnology: Under the sign of responsibility . Website Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  3. Hendrik Neubauer (Ed.): The Survivors - From the native to the world citizen. Tandem, Potsdam 2008, ISBN 978-3-8331-4627-5 . Pp. 300-301.
  4. a b What is “Traditional Knowledge”? ( Memento of the original from November 11, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. October 18, 2012 Retrieved February 14, 2013 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. ^ Roy A. Rappaport : Ecology, Meaning and Religion. North Atlantic Books, Richmond CA 1979, ISBN 0-913028-54-1 .
  6. ^ A b Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff : Rainforest Shamans. Essays on the Tukano Indians of the Northwest Amazon. Themis Books, Dartington 1997, ISBN 0-9527302-4-3 .