People like to talk about the newest advancements in science and technology as they give us a chance to expand knowledge, share it, and marvel together in all its wonder and beauty. However, a new threat is looming in the foreground, and it can cause chaos and conflict with the way that science is used and shared. It's called biopiracy, and it's happening right under our noses.
With the deluge of technological and scientific advancement in this era, we witness the birth of the magic of bioengineering. From food, drugs, cosmetics, to human cells, we have conquered what our ancestors have never done before: improve and prolong the quality of life.
However, this type of capability is limited only to countries that have access to certain technology and resources. This kind of discrepancy is the primary reason why people would turn to biopiracy, The Guardian states.
Biopiracy is defined as the exploitative use of traditional knowledge by commercial sectors. Due to the potentially big bucks involved, the commercial sectors usually have no qualms to commit it, and this when the problem begins.
A good example is the fact that developing countries often grow plants that are prized by big international pharmaceutical companies in developed countries. Case in point is the periwinkle leaf native only in Madagascar. Traditionally, it has been known to be a potent drug. Capitalizing on this fact, pharmaceutical companies developed it into a cure for cancer. The companies earned millions while Madagascar received absolutely nothing.
Another recent example is the problem in Thailand regarding it's native plant, the Kratom leaf. Japan applied for a patent to protect the plant which is widely known as an effective painkiller. Due to the patent, Thailand can no longer use the leaf the way it traditionally used to as reported in Bangkok Post. This greatly affects Thailand's chances to research or market the drug even though they are the ones providing it.
Due to the potentially catastrophic effect of biopiracy, and to attempt to regulate the unfairness that's been going on, the United Nations have placed a set of rules for everyone to follow. In the recent Biodiversity Conference, they have outlined new policies and solutions. However, they also faced some controversial questions such as who are the real benefactors of scientific advancement.
In conclusion, sharing of resources and knowledge is important to the progress of science. Big corporations and advanced countries should respect the resources of smaller countries to stop the threat of biopiracy.