Biopiracy- A threat to the genetic commons and the livelihood of the indegenous south.

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Having just finished reading “Biopiracy, the Plunder of nature and Knowledge” by Vandana Shiva, it is appalling what the world has come to. Vandana Shiva is one of the world’s most dynamic and provocative thinkers on the environment, women’s rights and international rights. In years to come community farmers mostly in the developing world will have to pay to access or use information, specific seeds and plants that they developed. Biopiracy is on the rise and more has to be done to raise awareness to protect these commons.

The encroachment of corporate globalisation into every aspect of life and the environment must stop. In a world where natural resources are being overly exploited, corporations are attempting to convert every remaining nook and cranny of the natural world and human experience into commodified form.

One of the commons that few people ever thought could be subject to privatisation is the genetic commons.   The late David Brower of the Earth Institute once called the genetic commons “the last untapped wilderness on earth“. Genetic commons are gifts from the bounty of nature, knowledge that has been developed for years by indigenous communities, passed on from generation to generation, traditional native remedies, seeds developed over centuries by community farmers who shared them freely with one another are now at the risk of being commodified.

Life Science corporations now claim patents on genes, plants, animals and seeds. Major corporations like Monsanto, Novartis, Du Pont and Pioneer have jumped on the bandwagon with the support of the WTO.  The WTO TRIPs agreement (Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement) gives corporations like the above stated the ability to patent plant and seed varieties according to their genetic makeup.

The perversity of this practice and how it affects  and deprives the south is depicted in Vandana Shiva’s article  ” From Commons to Corporate Patents on Life.

  • Biopiracy creates false claims to inventions and novelty that were developed centuries ago
  • It diverts the use of scarce biological resources to multinational corporations, giving them monopoly control and depriving local communities and indigenous practitioners of resources that are a part of their community and way of life.
  • Biopiracy helps make rich companies like Monsato and excludes the original innovators from their rightful share of local, national and international market.

Most people in developing and mostly indigenous communities depend on free access to biodiversity for their livelihoods and sustainability.  Those affected by this perversity are the poor – a source of livelihood that was once free to them is now being commodified.  What next?

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