Under CAFTA, Indigenous heritage becomes intellectual property for the United States


Throughout this course, I’ve found discussion around the issue of intellectual property particularly interesting. Living in British Columbia, it would be difficult to miss the ongoing debate around the local fisheries with regard to who owns what, and how far Indigenous people’s rights extend when it comes to rules around harvesting marine resources.

For these reasons, I found the Cancer Plants web page describing foreign ownership of the right to exploit a region’s abundant and diverse tropical flora, very provocative. According to this page, under the intellectual-property provisions of CAFTA, the US has forced legislation in member countries that potentially legalizes patenting the biological resources of the region to the benefit of pharmaceutical and agro-industrial companies. Indigenous communities and environmentalists call these practices biopiracy while international pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers call them bioprospecting. Whatever the term used, the ethical, environmental, and commercial implications of this practice could be enormous.


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