Advances in biotechnology over the last decade have created a demand for biological resources by transnational corporations. The search for biological resources has primarily focused on acquiring these resources from indigenous communities and countries of the South. However, the means by which these biological resources are obtained is exploitative and often tantamount to theft (or, as it is commonly known, biopiracy). As a result of communities attempting to prevent this theft and corporations seeking more international legitimacy for their "bioprospecting", "bioprospecting contracts" are more frequently being concluded between governments and corporations. Through the prism of current events in Iceland, I will demonstrate that bioprospecting contracts resolve little; they merely rename and reformulate an old crime into a new shape of exploitation which may be even more insidious than earlier forms of biopiracy. The events in Iceland will illustrate the problems inherent in encouraging governments to conclude contracts, and will show that a contract is only as good as the terms negotiated. The example of Iceland will also highlight the flexible and polymorphous nature of biopiracy as well as the myriad types of damage it can inflict on a community. Finally, I will discuss how the law, science and language each play a role in both obscuring international acts of biopiracy and maintaining existing power inequalities.
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Tina Piper, "The Collusion of Law and Science in the Piracy of Human Genes" (2000) 9 Dal J Leg Stud 237.