Biopiracy: The Legal Perspective

Biopiracy: The Legal Perspective

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by Michael A. Gollin
2007 | Policy Brief Series Vol. 2007 No. 4 | 2 pages
  • Print 1656-8818
  • e-ISSN 2599-3917

A generation ago, there were no laws about what you can or can’t take from nature.

In many instances, a researcher could simply arrive at a field site, collect samples, and take them home. There was no applicable law. The researcher might obtain informal permission from a local community or landholder, as much for being on the land as for collecting. At most, the researcher might be required to obtain a permit to collect from national lands, like a fishing or hunting license.

“Take-and-run” describes the old approach to collecting, lately dubbed “biopiracy.” The recorded history of international plant collecting missions goes back at least 3500 years when Egyptian rulers began bringing plants home after military expeditions. Other collecting trips followed: those of Charles Darwin in Galapagos, Commodore Perry’s naval mission in Japan, Richard Schultes, and many others.