'Your Friend in the Rain Forest': An Essay on the Rhetoric of Biopiracy
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 27
Keywords: bio-piracy, biopiracy, intellectual property, patent, biodiversity, bio-diversity, pharmaceutical, agribusiness, plant genetic resources, germplasm, indigenous, long term occupant
JEL Classification: K0, K3
Date posted: September 30, 2001