Countries like America, Japan, United Kingdom, France and Germany
are industrialised nations. These nations are advanced in technology with financial resources but compared with the Indian sub-continent are poor in bio diversity and traditional knowledge related to utilisation of flora and fauna that constitute the bio resources.
The clandestine exploitation and utilisation of bio resources from a country by several organisations and multinational companies without proper authorisation is known as Biopiracy.
Although the developing nations are not so financially sound,
they are however rich in traditional knowledge and bio diversity.
For a very long period, the tribal people in the remote areas of jungles
as also the people of rural areas have been using certain important herbal plants for treating certain diseases.
Since, the habitations of the tribal people are surrounded by a variety of plants and animals, they have acquired a sound knowledge of their uses particularly of their medicinal values.
This knowledge can be exploited to develop commercially important drugs from the plants. Traditional knowledge has greater utility value as it saves time, effort and expenditure for their commercialisation.
Multinational companies of the rich nations are collecting and exploiting the bio resources without any authorization in the following ways:
1. Plants like Catharanthus roseus (Vinca rosea) are exported to
countries as medicinal plants since they possess anticancerous properties.
The companies of the rich nations are interested in the bio molecules present in the plant. These compounds produced by living organisms are patented and used for commercial activities.
As a result of this, the farmers who cultivate the crop are being deprived of their rightful claims and compensations.
2. The genetic resources of the developing nations are over exploited
by the rich nations. For instance, Basmati rice is a crop grown indigenously in India from a very long time.
In U.S.A the Government had granted a patent to cover the entire ‘basmati’ rice plant so that other countries or institutions cannot undertake any other research programmes pertaining to Basmati plant.
In U.S.A, such patents are given for 17 long years.
3. Pentadiplandra brazzeana, a native plant of West Africa, produces
a protein called brazzein. It is several 100 times as sweet as sugar. Local people use it as a low-calorie sweetener.
This development could have serious implications for sugar exporting countries. Richer nations are over exploiting the commercial resources of the developing countries without adequate compensation.
With advances in scientific equipments, instruments and techniques, the bio diversity of the poor and developing nations of the tropics are overused and exploited by the rich nations.
There is a growing awareness of this over exploitation and hence the developing countries are enacting legislative laws to prevent this over exploitation by the rich nations.
The emergence of modern bio technology has brought forth many legal
characterizations and treatment of trade related bio technological processes and produces, popularly described as Intellectual Property. Intellectual Property Protection (IPP) and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) are the two unique facets of any Bio patency.
Intellectual property includes ‘patents’, ‘trade secrets’, ‘copy rights’ and ‘trade marks’ obtained for processes and products created through one’s own knowledge and research.
The right to protect this property prohibits others from making copying
using or selling these processes and products. In this era of bio technology, one of the most important examples of intellectual property is the creation of organisms containing new recombinant DNA.
Another example of Intellectual property is the new crop varieties, which are protected through ‘Plant Breeder’s Rights’ or PBR’s. The plant breeder who developed this new variety enjoys the exclusive right for marketing the variety.
Patenting of important crops and animal breeds may bring down a
shortfall in genetic resources. One of the major negative aspects of bio patency is that it may lead to scarcity of genetic resources. In addition,
majority of the people may not have access to certain rare genetic resources protected by Bio patency laws.
People argue that giving patent rights to transgenic plants and
transgenic animals is a wrongful idea as these patents will work as
impediments in free exchange of genetic materials for improvement of
crops and livestock.
Intellectual Property Rights may also adversely affect the following:
Food security, use of evolved agricultural practices, bio logical
diversity and ecological balance and livelihood of the poor in developing countries.
The Indian Patent Act of 1970 allows process patents, but no product
patents for foods, chemicals drugs and pharmaceuticals. Duration of patent in India is 5 years.
Under USA law, a patent means grant of “right to exclude others from making, using or selling” an invention for a 17 year period. To day, many favour the patenting of inventions arising from basic research.
Patents are granted as per the law of the State and are also
disputed in the court of Law whenever complaints of infringement of the patents are violated by the people.
In 1980, the discovery of an oil eating bacterium (Pseudomonas) by a non-resident Indian Scientist (Dr. Chakrabarty) was patented in USA by a multinational Corporation. Similarly, an ‘oncomouse’ was also patented.
All this means that life forms could be patented.