Friday, February 5, 2010

EMBA GBI - Comments on Bio Piracy

This is actually my first assignment for the Global Bussiness Issues .. commeting on Joseph Stiglitz Chapter 4: Patents, Profits and People.. and focusing more on Bio Piracy.. seems better for me to post it in cyberspace that just sitting still in my hardrive.. quite interesting actually the issue of Globalisation on Patents .. esp. how it stimulated Bio Piracy.. enjoy ;)


The developing countries traditional knowledge as well as local cures derived from their rich biodiversity has been currently targeted by large pharmaceutical firms via the use of patenting. Bio-piracy term is invented to illustrate the unfair practices in which the company “re-discovered” and “rebrand” traditional cures and afterwards charging the locals what they have known and used over the centuries without regards toward preserving the biodiversity itself.


Corporations such as Syngenta, Monsanto and others are currently pursuing the patenting of “climate genes” that are able to endure environmental stresses especially in view of the global climate change. Most of these genes are from Africans corps and thus sparking fears over biopiracy of the nation’s biodiversity.

Monsanto is currently leading the race towards patenting African key crops such as sorghum, maize, peanut, cotton, wheat, manic and sugarcane for their “climate” benefit such as biomass accumulation as well as stress and drought tolerance. An Israeli firms Evogene has also claimed 700 climate related gene consequences in a single patent submission covering African’s key crops such as maize, peanut, cotton, wheat, manioc and a number of economic plants including ornamental and teak species. US based Ceres Inc. has filed patents on “climate genes” for both agro fuels and food crops such as sorghum, maize, millets and rice. Swiss company Syngenta had patent pending for development of genetically modified (GM) plants resistance to saline soil and drought.

In 2008, non-government organization Environment Technology Council (ETC Group) stated that over 500 patents application has been filed around the world and many more pending afterwards. Agreements that might lead to biopiracy include:

i) Sorghum is a major African and Texan crop known for its draught tolerant quality with potential for grain, agro fuel and fodder production by Ceres that had signed exclusive rights for high biomass sorghum lines from Texas A&M University.
ii) Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) which is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates; and Buffet Foundation involving Monsato, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), the African Agricultural Technology Foundation and the national agricultural research institutes of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa.

These seeds are said to be available royalty-free to South African small farmers and are said to exemplify corporate generosity as well as how biotechnology can solved problems due to climate changes. However, critics such as the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) remain cautious liking the offerings as “Trojan horse intended to hook Africa farmers on GM seeds”.

Other case includes Teikoku Seiyaku Co. Ltd. (Kagawa, Japan) for patenting three traditional herbal remedies that are well known and commonly used by Chinese medicine practitioners.

These current cases of bio-piracy add on to the seriousness of old cases such as Enola vs. Mexican beans, South Asian’s basmati rice, Bolivian’s quino, Amazonia’s ayahuasca, Indian’s chickpeas, Peruvian’s nuna beans and Andean’s maca.


Peruvians has proactively prevented patenting of their traditional knowledge by foreign firms. In 2009, the Peruvian National Commission against Bio piracy has challenged patent submission in France, Japan, Korea and the U.S. which were derived from the traditional knowledge. The patented products are derived from Lepidium meyenii, Plukenetia volubilis Linneo and Myrciaria dubia, three native plants that are well known for their medicinal benefits. Currently, the commission monitors 69 of their genetic resources at the world’s main patent offices.

In this regard, other developing countries should consider their own department of bio piracy allegation investigations. Foreign companies should be able to use the developing countries traditional knowledge and rich bio-diversity. However, they also need to compensate the local people fairly.

An anti-biopiracy treaty is expected to adopt by countries parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) when they gather in Nagoya Japan in October 2010 for the biennial Conference of the Parties. It is hoped that biopiracy can then be prevented as well as equal fair sharing of biological resources and the associated traditional knowledge.


In Washington, leaders of 80 religious faiths including Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Buddhist and Hindu had in May 1995 held a joint conference stating the opposition against the patenting of genetically engineered animals and human genes, cells and organs. “….humans and animals are creations of God, not humans, and as such should not be patented as human inventions,”

Surah Al Anbiya -The Messengers (verse 21): (These people also accept that the universe has been created by Allah Almighty and is in operation according to His Laws ~ 23:84-85. 29:60-62. 31:25. 39:38. 43:9. However they are not ready to admit that their own socio-economic system and life should also be subordinated to His Laws). They carve separate deities for their earthly affairs (thinking that lives should be governed by their own or other man-made Laws) and believe that they should progress and flourish accordingly. (In short, they profess that there should be two different Ilahas. one for the outer universe and the other for life on earth. God should rule the physical world and earth should be ruled by man. What a terrible mistake they are committing!)


Stiglitz’s opinion against biopiracy seems to have continued on after his publication in 2007. As the potential benefits and profits are great, multinationals and large corporations continues their forays towards developing countries’ traditional knowledge and rich biodiversity. However, developing countries has started to take note as well as stand up to fight for their right such as the Peruvian state anti bio piracy initiatives. Though unable to do their own manufacturing of their rich flora and traditional knowledge, developing countries should be compensated for their resources instead of being taken advantage via use of patenting.


Stiglitz J (2007) Making Globalization Work, Penguin Book

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