Evolution of Technology (TEC 154 2014S) : Readings

Readings on Biopiracy (2)


Philip Schuler "Biopiracy and the Commercialization of Ethnobotanical Knowledge". (Chapter 7 In Poor People’s Knowledge) https://openknowledge.worldbank.com/bitstream/handle/10986/15049/284100PAPER0Poor0peoples0knowledge.pdf?sequence=1

V. Shiva "Bioprospecting as Sophisticated Biopiracy". Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/508502

T. Greaves "IPR, A Current Survey"


In the conclusions of Intellectual Property Rights for Indigenous Peoples, Tom Greaves discusses that although intellectual property rights (IPR) have it's obvious problems (like the extraction of knowledge and resources that can harm a culture), but is necessary because they are getting picked on and are "badly in need of tools and income to protect themselves." Who is Greaves trying to convince (whose emotions/guilt is he playing on)? Is it fair to say he finds it important to meddle into indigenous culture to solve the problems of others meddling?

On page 18 of Poor People's Knoweldge, the policies put in place in Latin America to protect the "rights of indiginous cultural communities and indienous people" are discussed. However, as corn is no longer consider indigenous, although having indigenous roots as indigenous Mexicans are considered "people of the corn," companies like Monsanto are patenting corn seeds and making it difficult for natives to afford their own food. Where else does the term "indigenous" limit the protection of knowledge and practices in Latin America? Also, Fair trade is brought up as a way to keep proper wages for artisans when their goods are exported (page 10). However, stamps like Fair trade and organic have become, or are becoming a fad. How do you see this affecting the selling, marketing, and production of goods (ex. from the andes)?

The Author states "IPR entails looking for legal vehicles in Western law that could be used by indigenous societies and their advocates to establish their rights of cultural ownership." Does specifying, specifically, western practices indicate the general superiority/condescending complex of the west, or does IPR honestly preserve the cultural integrity of the innovation?

What are the projected long-term goals/effects of an "integrated" IPR system of copyright?

Greave discusses the right indigenous people should have in keeping traditions from outsiders if they so choose to, but is this being selfish? Or is it distrust coming from previous incidents (like the scenario described at the beginning of the article)? Could the US government or UN create a way to protect the intellectual property rights of the indigenous?

Is the 18th Century European Philosophy on social progress actually good for society thus far in relation to technology? Has motivation for progress become so high that subsistence lifestyles are often seen in a negative light?

General question: Are small-scale farmers that simply grow products for consumption, such as beans, tomatoes, or avocados, subject to lawsuits for patent infringement?

How would Pool conceive of intellectual property rights (IPR)?

Greaves discusses on the bottom of page 8 that no indigenous society presently has copyright on their cultural knowledge, but how would a copyright work on indigenous knowledge and practices given the time limits to such a legal protections?

How can the United States continue to affect the copyright capabilities of indigenous cultures when many of these cultures are not directly related to the United States?

The author argues that IPR is an important tool for indigenous people so that they can protect themselves from the commercial exploitation of their native knowledge. However, does submitting to Western institutions such as patent law keep the power in the hands of the dominant force?

Can contracts between indigenous communities and Western companies/entities ensure fair distribution of earnings from the commercialization of a product or process? What are some of the drawbacks or disadvantages of contracts between these bodies?

What are some similarities and differences between IPR's and the patents we discussed with Professor Graham?

Greaves mentions how badly indigenous peoples need IPR's. What could potentially be done to speed up the process of making this a reality?

Shiva explains that "biodiversity knowledge in indigenous communities is not an individual but a collective innovation ... all members of the community ... have contributed to the innovation." How might patenting such innovations "destruct diversity"?

What motivation do Westerners have for introducing IPR to indigenous people?

With technology constantly improving, can't we validly claim that technology harms the protection of intellectual property? Technology makes it easier to replicate an already existing idea by slightly changing one of its traits. Does this harm the future of innovation?

Bioprospecting is considered a specific relationship between biological resources and knowledge with patenting knowledge. Can biology and research help protect patents? Intellectual property is extremely hard to prove first hand. Can biology help smooth out this process, or worsen it?

In Schuler's chapter in Poor People’s Knowledge, on page 176 he states: "The patent does not prevent the poor farmers from growing the beans they have been growing for years .... but it costs them export revenue - presumably more revenue than they would have lost simply through competition with unpatented production of yellow beans in the United States." Schuler is noting the limitations of patents and the economic harm that can be done using patents, does he believe that there should be two sets of patents, one within the country and one that is universal? If so, would this solve the economic problems that the current patent system poses?

In the article, Bioprospecting as Sophisticated Biopiracy, Shive writes "However, unlike the case with gold or oil deposits, local communities know the uses and value of biodiversity [...]. Taking knowledge from indigenous communities through bioprospecting is only the first step in developing an IPR‐protected industrial system that markets commodities that have been developed through local knowledge [...]." If patents are able to protect people from stealing other peoples new inventions, do the indigenous communities lack of awareness to patents make it ethically alright to steal from them? Are there no measures put in place to ensure that these people are not stolen from? If not, is this claiming that the patent system is condoning stealing from those who are unaware of the new technologies?

Copyright (c) 2014 Samuel A. Rebelsky.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.