'Your Friend in the Rain Forest': An Essay on the Rhetoric of Biopiracy

27 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2001

See all articles by Paul J. Heald

Paul J. Heald

University of Illinois College of Law


Dozens of commentators have suggested that long term occupant communities (especially in underdeveloped countries) should be granted sui generis rights over plant genentic resources and their knowledge about plant genetic resources. These rights would protect existing germplasm and information maintained by indigenous peoples. Advocates of new rights demonize international pharmaceutical and agribusiness firms that exploit plant genetic resources and argue that new intellectual property rights are the solution to a serious problem. The essay urges advocates for long term occupant communities to abandon the rhetoric of principle and set sail with the bio-pirates. Both indigenous groups and multinational pharmaceutical and agribusines firms have a common enemy: loggers. The twin objectives of preserving biodiversity and indigenous cultures is best served by adopting a commercial or economic rhetoric. As a practical and theoretical matter, an intellectual property solution is unlikely to win widespread support.

Keywords: bio-piracy, biopiracy, intellectual property, patent, biodiversity, bio-diversity, pharmaceutical, agribusiness, plant genetic resources, germplasm, indigenous, long term occupant

JEL Classification: K0, K3

Suggested Citation

Heald, Paul J., 'Your Friend in the Rain Forest': An Essay on the Rhetoric of Biopiracy. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=285177 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.285177

Paul J. Heald (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
706-372-2567 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.illinois.edu/faculty/profile/PaulHeald

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