For centuries, researchers have prospected for plants, animals and micro-organisms in diversity-rich regions of the tropics and sub-tropics, often leaving with seeds tucked in their pockets and the knowledge of local people meticulously chronicled in their notebooks. More recently, individuals and corporations have used intellectual property (e.g., patents and Plant Breeders’ Rights) to gain legal monopoly over genetic resources and the traditional knowledge that farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities have developed and used over millennia. It is popularly known as “biopiracy.”
In addition to the legal tool of exclusive monopoly patents, companies seek to employ new technologies to eliminate the age-old rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds and breeding materials. See, for example, the case of “Terminator Technology.” This section highlights a number of infamous cases of biopiracy from around the world, both historic and ongoing.