Bio Piracy How It Affects Indigenous Cultures Native Studies Essay

1818 words - 8 pages

Bio Piracy
As genetic research becomes more sophisticated and there is more demand for medical advances so does our ability and desire to use natural resources such as plants to develop new drugs or modify current plants/crops to meet food and medical security needs. Corporations, academic institutions and governments  when in the search for new bio resources have their researches draw from and on local peoples traditional knowledge and resources. These researchers use this indigenous knowledge as it makes research more efficient and less expensive for them (C.L. Akurugoda, 49). This information is always drawn from indigenous people and their traditions as almost ninety percent of the world's biodiversity lies within the territories of indigenous people all across the world. The large organizations and such that do this take the resources, claim ownership and take unfair advantage of these resources and knowledge from indigenous communities (AFN, 1).This is the act of bio piracy, something in which often takes place in countries foreign to the companies conducting such research. Bio piracy is a crime that not only exploits indigenous groups and their knowledge around the world, it also negatively affects their cultural identity, their home lands/environment and living patterns as well as it is unjust and unfair, a few famous examples of this include the bio piracy of Periwinkle, The Neem Tree and the Mayocoba Bean.
The plant native to Madagascar, Catharanthus Roseus- also known as Rosy Periwinkle has long been used as medicine in Africa and other tropical countries (Baig,1). Traditionally the people of Madagascar would use it to treat wasp stings, as a astringent, diuretic and cough remedy as well as a remedy to treat eye infections and irritations (Bailey,1). It has been cultivated to treat diabetes, malaria and Hodgkin’s disease, Periwinkle also causes a sharp drop in white blood cells and so Western pharmaceutical companies had begun extracting substances from the plant to treat Leukemia. (ASFN,1). These discoveries led to this plant species being the source of two powerful cancer fighting drugs, vincristine and vinblastine (Brown, 135). These drugs were isolated from the indigenous people, tested and then sold on the market by an Eli Lily in the 1950’s. This generated substantial profits over the years for Lily and yet none of it was ever given to the Nation of Madagascar. This creates an issue as the Madagascar people were never given compensation for their own knowledge and research of the substance. Many books and articles have been published, each in which claim that Madagascar was unfairly denied and ignored when having wanted a portion of revenue for the drugs sales. The people felt as though it was wrong as the plants medical discoveries depended on its biodiversity and ethno medical traditions (Brown, 136). Scientists who work at Eli Lily company argue with the claim that the information available to them about Periwinkle previous to...

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