Who owns the plants?

An interesting article in Wired, where it takes a brief look at the implications of pharmaceuticals exploiting the natural resources of ‘foreign lands’. It poses the question of who owns the genetic material found in nature, and how the spoils of beneficial discoveries are split.

It’s an interesting topic, and seems to have a strong basis in modern myths of an Indiana Jones type figure lost in the jungle stumbling on some sort of aboriginal cure for tooth decay. The term bioprospecting, used often in the article, seems oddly offensive, as though the West is going in to the ‘wild’, removing the valuable parts, and then leaving, probably with a suitable amount of cultural and environmental destruction.

It looks an awful lot like modern day colonialism, hidden under the guise of biological research. You can bet if a miraculous Viagra replacement were discovered in Togo, the vast majority of the profits would not be going to the people of Togo.

One Response to “Who owns the plants?”

  1. jennifer says:

    I believe the discoverer is entitled to the patent, no? I once read a book about a scientist who spent years in the amazon forest taking plant samples and looking for new chemical compositions that could work as medicines. it was very interesting becasue he sought out plants that were used in traditional medicinal practices and tried to find the validity of the medicinal properties and then commercially exploit that plant.