Book Review: “Global Bio-piracy: Patents, Plants, and Indigenous Knowledge”

The past 25 years have seen a charged discourse about bio-piracy: the unequal access to benefits of genetic resources and local knowledge, and the intellectual property system’s failure to adequately recognize Indigenous or non-western knowledge, while expanding property rights over life forms. Ikechi Mgbeoji fills a need for a specific definition of bio-piracy and chronicles bio-piracy as a legal and social phenomenon. The book‘s thesis is that the industrialized world uses “two distinct but mutually re-enforcing strategies” to perpetuate bio-piracy: institutional/juridical mechanism, and a gendered and racist construct of indigenous epistemology. Chapter 1puts bio-piracy in historical perspective, and argues that national and global patent systems are vulnerable to manipulation and do not accommodate non-Western world views. Chapter 3 addresses international law concerning the conservation and use of plants and Indigenous knowledge, and examines the implications of bio-piracy for biological and cultural diversity. Chapter 4 expands on Mgbeoji’s central thesis. Chapter 5 examines “the appropriative function of the interplay between patent systems of industrialized states and plant breeders’ rights.” The author discusses state responsibility under international law, arguing for the extension of such responsibilities to curb the menace of bio-piracy. The author explores and critiques various strategies of addressing bio-piracy, and elaborates on changes that would need to be made to the existing patent system to accommodate Indigenous knowledge.

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Oguamanam, Chidi, Book Review — ‘Global Bio-Piracy: Patents, Plants and Indigenous Knowledge,’ by Ikechi Mgbeoji, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005, 311 pp. (2006). 39:2 University of British Columbia Law Review 397-405.

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