Right to collect

Heike Vibrans heike at COLPOS.COLPOS.MX
Thu Sep 26 12:06:52 CDT 2002


I stumbled over the following assertion of Anita, which
she correctly said was a different issue, but which I am
curious to hear opinions about.

"Anita F. Cholewa" <chole001 at UMN.EDU> wrote:
"I am not trying to be
elitist and I do recognize that parataxonomists (or
amateurs if you prefer) contribute greatly to systematics
(I don't believe anyone has a "right" to collect
however--different issue)."

I have always felt the the use (not the abuse) of
wildgrowing plants and animals for personal reasons is a
basic human right.

In large parts of the world the collection of wild plants
is either an integral part earning a livelyhood (for
example in rural areas here in Mexico) or a longstanding
tradition (many parts of Europe). That is, I have a right
to go out to the forest or whatever, and gather a bunch of
pretty flowers for my living room, pick some Chenopodium
or Amaranthus or mushrooms for a nice sidedish or, yes,
collect plants for my personal enjoyment. And nobody's
business, unless I want to enter the public arena by
describing new species; I do believe that the codes ought
to make deposition in a public institution obligatory for

The state has a right to prohibit collecting in designated
conservation areas, certain taxa that may be threatened or
otherwise noteworthy, and to regulate commercial activity;
but I don't think blanket prohibitions would be correct.
Some countries require collecting permits for scientific
collecting, mainly because of biopiracy concerns, but this
is borderline for my taste, as it can criminalize
well-meaning amateurs. By the way, these kind of permits
are generally required in countries that do not have many
amateurs. In countries with an amateur tradition such as
Germany such a law would be politically impossible. One of
the reasons why the flora and fauna of Europe is probably
the best-known in the world, is the large number of
amateurs there, of course many with private collections.

I don't really see the qualitative difference of a farmer
collecting food or fuel or medicine and I myself
collecting for my personal reasons - the effect on the
vegetation is probably less with my own collection. Even
if it gets lost afterwards. The value added to a amateur
collection over, say, those same plants as decoration for
the living room is basically the collectors time and
effort for conservation and documentation, and I do
believe that individuals have a right to dispose of this
in any way they see fit. Of course, so much better if they
decide to donate this time and effort to the public good,
and many do, but if they don't want to ... that is their
or their heir's decision. (I would like to add that
nowadays most of my collections, with the exception of a
small reference collection for convenience, go to
institutions, because I have the good fortune get paid for
what I like to do. If that were not so, I would probably
have a private collection as well). So, I was wondering
what the general thinking on the "right to collect" is on
this list.


Dra. Heike Vibrans L.
Laboratorio de Etnobotánica
Especialidad de Botánica
Colegio de Postgraduados en Ciencias Agrícolas
km 35.5 carr. México-Texcoco
53230 Montecillo
Estado de México, Mexico

Tel. +52 (595) 95 20 200 Ext. 1335 (directo), 1331
(secretaria), 1330 (dirección)
Fax. +52 (595) 95 20 247
Correo electrónico: heike at colpos.colpos.mx (trabajo)
heikev at prodigy.net.mx (casa)

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