Biopiracy: Knowledge Stealing in Medicine
Narrowing the issue begun in my recent thread "Who Owns Science?" I would like to discuss here what has been called "biopiracy".
Biopiracy is a negative term for the appropriation, generally by means of patents, of legal rights over indigenous knowledge - particularly indigenous biomedical knowledge - without compensation to the indigenous groups who originally developed such knowledge. A classic case is that of the Rosy Periwinkle (Madagascar Periwinkle). Research into the plant was prompted by the plant's traditional medicinal role and resulted in the discovery of a large number of biologically active chemicals, including vincristine, a lucrative agent useful during leukemia chemotherapy. A method for purifying vincristine was initially patented and marketed by Eli Lilly. It is widely reported that the country of origin did not receive any payment.
Biopiracy allegedly contributes to inequality between developing countries rich in biodiversity, and developed countries served by pharmaceutical industry exploiting those resources.
The issue is whether it is ethical for pharmaceutical companies to derive medicines and make profit from knowledge acquired from natives, but without the natives' appropriate compensation. Do you see, by this behavior, piracy or if not, what is it? ..Maurice.
GRAPHIC is from a photograph taken by me of a ship's flag and modified by me with ArtRage.