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Biopiracy, TRIPS, and the Patenting of Asia's Rice Bowl

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Biopiracy, or the stealing of genetic material and knowledge from communities in the gene-rich developing countries, is an exploding issue in Asia. Industrialised countries want exploitation and ownership rights over the biodiversity of the South. In a sense, this goes back to the colonial era, when countries like England and the Netherlands took control of crop resources in Asia to build up their trade empires around cotton, sugar, tea, rubber, pepper, and the like. Biopiracy is a new name for this old process. Liberalization of trade through fora like GATT or APEC is driven by pressure from industrialised countries, which aim to dominate world markets. Winning monopoly control over Asia's biodiversity and indigenous knowledge through intellectual property laws is crucial to their strategy today.

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