In the 70's brave scientists headed off to the wilds of Africa Asia
and south America to "save" the genes of threatened plants. They would
be lost and along with them, cancer cures and new drugs and antibiotics.
We gave them our goodwill with this venture because the plants were
disappearing. A dutch missionary who was working in africa told me how
the people knew all the beneficial plants and would use them as poultices
and brews. The scientists often talked to those people and were told which
plants were good and useful.
Now, 20 years later. we can see the disgraceful results of the genetic theft. Genetic engineering firms had easy access to the native folklore and the seeds. They used the folklore to sift through and find the useful seeds. Then they identified the useful chemicals and patented them. In several cases, they are already trying to ban the local use of the knowledge. A famous case is the neem tree in India.
Used for centuries as a pesticide plant, It proved too expensive for a while as the patenting company bought up the supply of leaves and then tried to use the patent to prevent the local use of the plant. In this case they patented a method for extracting the chemical.
Another case was that of a seed company in the US.
They sent some people down to Mexico where local farmers grow beans in a cocktail of colours. They selected one colour bean from the lot, and grew it until it grew true (all beans that colour). They patented it and got the US government to collect a fee from all beans containing that colour coming into the states from Mexico.
It shames and disturbs me that we in the west accept that sort of behaviour.
Why can we not call a thief a thief? No matter what the circumstances? In my view. a smart thief is still a thief. Actually they are worse. They are preying on the weak and giving them no quarter.
They will say that it is "survival of the fittest" and that they are just "competing hard". It is "natural" to act like this. All of this is untrue! Even at the lowest levels, nature is about co-operation! Bacteria in the soil "eat" by secreting enzymes into the soil. The enzymes break up food into digestible portions and some of it comes back to the bacterium.
Biologists quickly found out that they couldn't isolate many bacteria and grow them to study. Why? Bacteria co-operate. Some kinds do not produce all the enzymes needed to break down their food. They rely on others to supply the rest. They are often fair traders! Perhaps humans could learn from them!
We can start by outlawing this form of theft.
mixed bag of goodies