Charges of biopiracy — the illegal use of one nation’s natural resources for the economic gain of another are often extreme and are therefore relatively easy to reconcile. But what happens when pharmaceuticals are involved and people’s lives hang in the balance.
If a rare plant that grows only in the remote regions of an emerging nation has the potential to cure illnesses that plague the Western world, who should exploit it? Should global pharmaceutical companies who have the money and means to develop medicines and deliver them expediently to patients who need them? Or should the people who live where the plant grows have the right to protect their natural resources from exploitation by outsiders? And how do we reconcile the possibility that in our age of dying biodiversity that plant may not exist forever and could disappear before its secrets are cracked?
This is the International Year of Biodiversity developing countries are very concerned about the loss of their ownership of knowledge and resources from their boundaries. India, a great victim of biopiracy over the years, has announced it will push for and Access and Benefit Sharing program that will help contain biopiracy.
Protection of property is a conerstone of our free market system. It makes sense that countries should benefit from their own unique resources and specializations (the principles of trade). The question we must ask is, is there a moral aspect? If a developing country lacks the resources to capitalize on a natural treatment, is it worth waiting the years and allowing the deaths?
I’d like to know what you think. Comment please!