What is Biopiracy?

Biopiracy is the practice of exploiting naturally occurring genetic or biochemical material in commerce. Most indigenous people have traditional knowledge that mainly includes genetic diversity and natural environment biological features from generation to generation. The following components comprise some of the traditional knowledge relevant to global survival.

  1. Medicinal Vegetables.

  2. Agriculture, or Farming.

  3. Alimentary crop varieties.

Conservation of habitat, ecosystems and biodiversity are crucial components for the sustainability of rural and indigenous peoples.

Biopiracy operates by unfairly applying patents to genetic resources and traditional knowledge 

Biopiracy is the theft or usurpation of genetic materials , in particular plants and other biological materials, by the patenting process. 

Example – the use of indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants for the patenting of medical companies without understanding that information is neither new nor developed by the patenter, thereby depriving the indigenous people of their information, community of the right to commercial exploitation of the technology that they themselves have developed.

Biopiracy refers to the usage of bio-resources by foreign corporations and other organisations without appropriate authorization from the countries and individuals concerned without compensation. The majority of industrialised nations are financially rich but poor in biodiversity and traditional knowledge, in comparison to developing and underdeveloped countries. 

Some nations are developing legislation to avoid such illegal exploitation of their bio-resources and traditional knowledge. The second amendment to the Indian Patents Bill has recently been approved by the Indian Parliament. It takes account of such issues, including the terms of the patent, the emergency provisions, the research and development initiative.

Examples of Biopiracy

  1. African super - sweet berries biopiracy: Pentadiplandrabrazzein is a plant found in South Africa's west. This is a vital protein source known as Brazzein. Here it is used by people as a low-calorie sweetener. It is considered to be 2000 times sweeter than sugar. Recent advances include isolation of the sequenced and proprietary gene encoding brazzein in the US.

  2. Patenting of Azadirachta Indica – Neem: Neem has proved to be useful in many ways since ancient times. Indians across the globe have shared their knowledge about neem. In 1994 the U.S. Agriculture Department and an American company-W.R. Grace received a European patent, which included various methods used to control fungal infections in plants using a neem-extracted composition.

  3. Biopiracy: of the Enola bean It was named after Larry Proctor 's wife in 1999, who patented it. Enola bean is a Mexican yellow bean variety. Farmers in North Mexico were dependent on the bean 's sales. A significant number of importers of Mexican yellow beans were subsequently sued by the patent-holder. As a consequence, it caused farmers economic harm. Farmers filed a lawsuit and the decision was in favor of the farmers as decided by the United States. Office of Patent and Trademark.

  4. The Rosy Periwinkle: In Madagascar, the rosy periwinkle was originally found. Now, several other tropical countries around the globe have been introduced to it. This implements researchers being able to obtain knowledge in other nations from one nation and plant samples.

Biopiracy is known to be the usage of bio-resources by foreign companies and other organisations without appropriate authorization from the countries and people concerned without compensation. Most developed nations are wealthy financially, but low in arid traditional knowledge of biodiversity. In contrast, the developing and underdeveloped world is rich in biodiversity and traditional knowledge of bio-resources. Traditional knowledge of bio-resources can be used to build modem applications and can also be used to save time , energy and expense during their commercialisation.

Effects of Bio-Piracy

Failure to cause biodiversity depletion 

Examples: Asia: use of more than 100,000 rice varieties in the 20th century Now: less than a dozen are planted in 70% of Rice India land: 30,000 Now: 10 varieties

The Main Effects of Biopiracy 

The core consequences of bio-piracy shall be; 

  1. Intellectual Poverty 

The usurpation of indigenous creativity by western companies robs intellectuals 

Contributions from another nation that are worth generating intellectual deprivation. 

  1. Resources Poverty 

Bio-piracy-based patents divert biological resources away from local communities 

Global markets that create scarcity and resource poverty. 

  1. Exclusion of The Market 

Bio-piracy allows market control to shift to pirates who then exclude others. 

Access to the market through exclusion built into intellectual property rights.

Biopiracy: use of bio-resources by MNCs and other organizations without proper authorisation from the countries and people concerned; without compensation, it is called biopiracy.

There have been many cases in which companies and/or people from developed nations have obtained patent rights on novel uses of bioresources which had been part of the traditional knowledge of developing countries. Patent on a new variety of Basmati rice by an American is one such example.

Why Do Companies Opt for Biopiracy Instead of Bioprospecting? 

(a) to be at the top of the competition in order to obtain a patent on biological material; 

(b) to have time for companies to legally collect a sample;

Efforts to Prevent Biopiracy 

  • Curbing biopiracy is about ensuring that aboriginal peoples receive rights and equal compensation for the use of resources and genetic materials; 

  •  Individual countries must amend their laws in order to reflect the need for fair compensation for indigenous peoples; 

  • The empowerment of indigenous peoples will produce positive results

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What do you mean by Biopiracy?

A circumstance in which indigenous knowledge of nature, derived from indigenous peoples, is used by others for benefit, without permission or with little to no compensation to acknowledge indigenous peoples themselves. 

Developed countries misuse the genetic resources of developing countries and the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples in the name of patents on innovations derived from those genetic resources.

2. Explain Bioprospecting or Biopiracy briefly.

Bioprospecting or Biopiracy 

  • Bio-prospecting includes 'exploring, collecting and screening biological diversity and indigenous information for commercially useful genetic and biochemical resources.'

  • Unfortunately, indigenous peoples are too often unaware of the value of their knowledge. 

  • Legislation has tried to prevent such unrestricted bioprospecting or what is often referred to as biopiracy.