About Biopiracy

For the first time, the Oxford English Dictionary now includes "biopiracy," The OED defines "biopiracy" as "bioprospecting, regarded as a form of exploitation of developing countries."

Biopiracy refers to the monopolization of genetic resources such as seeds and genes taken from the peoples or farming communities that have nurtured those resources. It also refers to the theft of traditional knowledge from those cultures.

Today the main source of biopiracy occurs by corporations, academic institutes and governments claiming intellectual property over genetic resources - patents on life (eg gene patents) or claiming plant breeders rights. The introduction of new biotechnologies such as genetic engineering has facilitated a new wave of biopiracy.

With the advent of nanotechnology ownership of nature has now reached a more fundamental level. As well as gene sequences nanopirates are claiming ownership of the molecules and even the elements that everything is made from.

Meanwhile the culture industry has been commercially exploiting the art, culture, language and symbols of indiginous cultures - often claiming trademarks on knowledge which they have stolen.

For some Biopiracy only refers to the unauthorised and illegal theft of knowledge and resources, claiming that legal bioprospecting agreements can be worked out to share commercial benefits. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) takes the view that agreements can be made on "access and benefit sharing" to overcome biopiracy. Many Indiginous groups disagree:

"Contractual benefit sharing is like waking up in the middle of the night to find your house being robbed. On the way out the door, the thieves tell you not to worry because they promise to give you a share of whatever profit they make selling what used to belong to you." - Alejandro Argumedo, Quechua activist

Check out wikipedias definition of Biopiracy

For an introduction to Biopiracy and the state of global discussions check out this briefing from ETC Group