A Handbook of Contemporary Research
Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Matthew Rimmer
Chapter 15: Legislating on biopiracy in Europe: too little, too late?
Europe holds an interesting dual position when it comes to issues of biopiracy and Indigenous or traditional knowledge: Europe houses some of the major international corporations keen to patent or otherwise monetise naturally occurring phenomena, yet has its own rich history and practice of ‘traditional knowledge’, particularly in the areas of agriculture and biodiversity, as well as the high biodiversity of parts of the overseas remnants of the European colonial empires such as French Guiana. However, Europe has been complicit in instances of biopiracy, i.e. the unauthorised extraction and use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, particularly against countries and communities in the Global South. This complicity has been manifested in European law enforcement agencies effectively turning a blind eye to European-based corporations’ involvement in unauthorised bioprospecting, as well as intellectual property institutions such as the European Patent Office (EPO) being willing to issue patents for biotechnological ‘inventions’ which include the ill-gotten gains of such instances of biopiracy – i.e. genetic resources and/or associated traditional knowledge extracted in an unauthorised and inequitable fashion from the Global South. Against this backdrop and as an attempt to remedy the situation in order to offer more protection and compensation to the custodians of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge used in the European Union, the European Parliament has been debating a new law which would implement the Nagoya Protocol 2010 into European Union law in the form of a regulation.
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