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Pentecost Women, Vanuatu. Photo by: Chris Kilham

Biopiracy
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Native Shipibo Women, Amazonia

“I want to put an end to the typical exploiter model where outsiders come and take the resources of an indigenous people and leave them without a penny in their pocket.” – Chris Kilham, LA Times

For as long as people have been traveling the world and invading other people’s territories, biopiracy has existed. A dominant force “discovers,” exploits, utilizes or otherwise appropriates a resource of some kind, from medicinal plants to minerals, wildlife, and even traditional knowledge, in a manner that profits only the dominant force, and serves none of the interests of the country or people whose resource is being used. In the world of medicinal plants, many natural remedies have been utilized by indigenous native people, and then subsequently “discovered” by people of other cultures and utilized to the profit of the latter, leaving the former with nothing.

At Medicine Hunter we utterly oppose biopiracy. This is a low and short-sighted practice, and must be rooted out of the world of medicinal plant commerce, as well as from other sectors of economy. Over time, we’ll have more to share on this topic.

One common tool of bio-pirates is the patent. Currently there are many instances of companies acquiring native knowledge of a plant and its uses, and then patenting that plant exclusively, effectively screwing the natives. We deplore this type of crappy, under-handed business. If patents do wind up being filed, then the native people from whom knowledge of a plant’s uses derive should have full and unrestricted access to any and all of the knowledge, materials and activities in the patent, without exception. Companies who fail to work this way should be hounded aggressively into perpetuity, without relief.

bi·o·pi·ra·cy (bī'ō-pī'rə-sē) n. The commercial development of naturally occurring biological materials, such as plant substances or genetic cell lines, by a technologically advanced country or organization without fair compensation to the peoples or nations in whose territory the materials were originally discovered. (from Dictionary.com)