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Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature & Knowledge [Paperback]

Vandana Shiva
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2011
Vandana Shiva's book shows how Western powers, following in the footsteps of Columbus, are using patenting and genetic engineering to re-colonize the Third World. Denying the value of indigenous knowledge developed over many generations, the West is attempting to colonize life itself. The author argues that we must struggle to protect biological and cultural diversity, and that this will best be brought about by our developing and supporting self-organized communities based on decentralization, local democratic control of resources, social justice and peace. Biopiracy brings a fresh perspective to the current debate on the patenting of life forms and genetic engineeering, from one of the Third World's most respected voices.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Natraj Publishers (1 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8181581601
  • ISBN-13: 978-8181581600
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 553,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Biopiracy is a path-breaking work on one of the most important issues of the coming century . . . Vandana Shiva's inspiring book is a clarion call . . . (that) should be widely read and discussed by everyone concerned by the fate of the Earth" -- - Jeremy Rifkin, author of The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era

"One of India's leading physicists . . . a leading thinker who has eloquently blended her views on the environment, agriculture, spirituality and women's rights into a powerful philosophy." -- - Utne Reader

"One of the world's most prominent radical scientists" -- - The Guardian

"With her characteristic blend of analysis and passion, Vandana Shiva traces the continuity from the European colonization of 'native' peoples . . . to the present appropriation of the natural resources they need for their physical and cultural survival. An important book that should be read by anyone wanting to understand the global threat posed by the technological transformations of organisms, cells, and molecules and by their exploitation for profit." -- - Ruth Hubbard, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Harvard University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Introduction Piracy Through Patents: The Second Coming of Columbus On April 17, 1492, Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand granted Christopher Columbus the privileges of "discovery and conquest". One year later, on May 4, 1493, Pope Alexander VI, through his 'Bull of Donation', granted all islands and mainlands "discovered and to be discovered, one hundred leagues to the West and South of the Azores towards India", and not already occupied or held by any Christian king or prince as of Christmas of 1492, to the Catholic monarchs Isabel of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon. As Walter Ullmann stated in Medieval Papalism: The pope as the vicar of God commanded the world, as if it were a tool in his hands; the pope, supported by the canonists, considered the world as his property to be disposed according to his will. Charters and patents thus turned acts of piracy into divine will. The peoples and nations that were colonized did not belong to the pope who 'donated' them, yet this canonical jurisprudence made the Christian monarchs of Europe rulers of all nations, "wherever they might be found and whatever creed they might embrace". The principle of 'effective occupation' by Christian princes, the 'vacancy' of the targeted lands, and the 'duty' to incorporate the 'savages' were components of charters and patents.

The Papal Bull, the Columbus charter, and patents granted by European monarchs laid the juridical and moral foundations for the colonization and extermination of non-European peoples. The Native American population declined from 72 million in 1492 to less than 4 million a few centuries later.

Five hundred years after Columbus, a more secular version of the same project of colonization continues through patents and intellectual property rights (IPRs). The Papal Bull has been replaced by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) treaty. The principle of effective occupation by Christian princes has been replaced by effective occupation by the transnational corporations supported by modern-day rulers. The vacancy of targeted lands has been replaced by the vacancy of targeted life forms and species manipulated by the new biotechnologies. The duty to incorporate savages into Christianity has been replaced by the duty to incorporate local and national economies into the global marketplace, and to incorporate non-Western systems of knowledge into the reductionism of commercialized Western science and technology.

The creation of property through the piracy of other's wealth remains the same as 500 years ago.

The freedom that transnational corporations are claiming through intellectual property rights protection in the GATT agreement on Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) is the freedom that European colonizers have claimed since 1492. Columbus set a precedent when he treated the licence to conquer non-European peoples as a natural right of European men. The land titles issued by the pope through European kings and queens were the first patents. The colonizer's freedom was built on the slavery and subjugation of the people with original rights to the land. This violent takeover was rendered 'natural' by defining the colonized people as nature, thus denying them their humanity and freedom.

John Locke's treatise on property effectually legitimized this same process of theft and robbery during the enclosure movement in Europe. Locke clearly articulated capitalism's freedom to build as the freedom to steal: property is created by removing resources from nature and mixing them with labour. This 'labour' is not physical, but labour in its 'spiritual' form, as manifested in the control of capital. According to Locke, only those who own capital have the natural right to own natural resources, a right that supersedes the common rights of others with prior claims. Capital is thus defined as a source of freedom that, at the same time, denies freedom to the land, forests, rivers, and biodiversity that capital claims as its own, and to others whose rights are based on their labour. Returning private property to the commons is perceived as depriving the owner of capital of freedom. Therefore peasants and tribespeople who demand the return of their rights and access to resources are regarded as thieves.

These Eurocentric notions of property and piracy are the bases on which the IPR laws of GATT and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been framed. When Europeans first colonized the non-European world, they felt it was their duty to "discover and conquer", to "subdue, occupy, and possess". It seems that the Western powers are still driven by the colonizing impulse: to discover, conquer, own, and possess everything, every society, every culture. The colonies have now been extended to the interior spaces, the 'genetic codes' of life forms from microbes and plants to animals, including humans. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars People Before Profit 6 Aug 2011
Format:Paperback
'Deftly argued but fundamentally flawed' better applies to the review of that name than this excellent book. In Biopiracy, Vandana Shiva lifts the lid on the west's exploitation of both the natural world and people of less developed nations in order to prop up its own consumerist version of progress. I don't get at all that Shiva is arguing against patents or those who develop novel foods or crops being able to to reap rewards from that. What she is drawing attention to, is how those countries which don't have a well developed sense of intellectual property rights are being mined by those which do; primarily America. The genetic make up of people is being taken against their knowledge under the pretext of vaccination schemes or research into illness, to benefit pharmaceutical and health organisations. The molecular structure of crops which have been selected for generations by farmers in arid region can also be studied back in the lab and patented for sale back to the same farmers in the form of F1 seeds which cannot be saved in the traditional way for planting the next year but instead must be bought annually.
The basis of the argument here is that all the benefits of this biological research in developing countries are taken by the west and not shared back with the places which the knowledge came from as people in less developed nations do not know the value of their knowledge and natural resources, and are naive in the way that these can be exploited and even used against them for further mining of profit. If the profit and knowledge gained from natural and human wealth was used to benefit all of humanity rather than a few multinational corporations I suspect that Vandana Shiva would not have such a problem with the huge rise in patenting of genes and crops. And neither would I.
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5.0 out of 5 stars We need to know! 26 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not a new book but little has changed and we need to change to ensure our future. I love Vandana's passion and her fight continues.
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6 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Deftly argued, but fundamentally flawed 5 Feb 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Shiva argues for a "collective intellectual property right", i.e., a state ownership, of any chemical or drug derived from a plant or organism found in a given country. She uses all the right code words designed to raise the hackles of rightousness- words like "racism" and "exploitation" and "diversity"- to in effect argue that people who live in a region- or rather, their rulers- own any and all possible profits that might arise from the use of a natural resource, whether or not they themselves choose to exploit it.
This is an economically naiive argument that doesn't understand that a resource isn't a resource if no one is using it. The book is basically framed as an argument for wealth transfer to the third world, as if that was the only source in the world of useful resources.
In the end, Shiva is arguing against the very system that allowed the exploitation of natural resources for use by humans. If we had to peel the bark from a tree every time we had a headache, we'd go through a lot of trees- and those in colder climates would be out of luck. But Bayer's asprin patent eventually allowed people the world over to buy the synthetic equivalent for pennies.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impeccable analysis of one of world's greatest problems 20 Dec 1999
By Robert Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In Biopiracy, the Plunder of Nature and Knowledge, Vandana Shiva starts from the very reasonable premise that life forms, used for nutritional and medicinal purposes by native cultures for centuries, should not be patented by foreign multinational corporations as "new discoveries". In other words, this book is not for anyone who feels that it is okay to patent life forms which are modifications of already existing species. If you are interested in the problems with this approach and its political, economic, and moral implications, this book is necessary reading. Shiva exposes this exploitation of the intellectual and material wealth of the third world in the name of profits. Shiva's Monocultures of the Mind is also strongly recommended.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An important introduction to the global threat to biodiversity 7 Nov 2005
By Mark DeRespinis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Vandana Shiva has become one of the most outspoken defenders of biodiversity and the commons, persistently working to advance the public understanding of a complicated history of corporate and legislative decisions that have changed the landscape of our lives and the lives of people the world over. She has contributed to a vital dialogue about the effects of globalization and the silent tragedies that are occuring every day because of strange business practices and the relentless politics of the new manifest destiny. "Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge" is a succinct and accessible introduction to the issue of patents and corporate control of the natural world. Shiva is an articulate educator who writes about the difficult and often unspoken history of corporate exploitation of the knowledge of non-Western cultures. By arguing vehemently for the preservation of the farmer's right to save seeds, as well as local rights to ecological and historically tested uses of the natural world, Shiva outlines an ethical path for movement forward and for responding proactively to unfair business practices. I read this book in the context of a larger look at the world's food supply from an ecological and political perspective, but it speaks to a wide audience and can reach far in spreading truth about what is happening in our world - much of which is not getting reported in the mainstream media.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sharp warning cry of alarm 14 Feb 2003
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Biopiracy by physicist, ecologist, and environmental activist Vandana Shiva is a harsh but perceptive survey and analysis of the expansion of population pressures on the environment, and more importantly, the technological advances which have been made and which seemingly have begun to dominate and shape life itself, as well as the process by which life is generated. A timely and critically important contribution to environmental policy discussions, Biopiracy is recommended as a sharp warning cry of alarm at where humanity's current tendency to pollute and put the dollar first can lead, as well as the damage that modern trends have down to traditional ways of life, -- especially among native peoples.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating and invaluable 3 May 2000
By George Shaw - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In "Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge" Vandana Shiva posits that the biotechnology industry of today is but a continuation of the piracy of Columbus, John Cabot and Walter Raleigh. Euphemistically called "discoveries" their exploitation legitimized piracy as the "natural right of the colonizer, necessary for the deliverance of the colonized."
Shiva maintains that this system of exploitation, continuing under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, now treats "biopiracy" as a "natural right of Western corporations, necessary for the development of Third World communities." Shiva writes that Western capital is now seeking out new colonies, new properties - the interior spaces of women plants and animals - to invade and exploit. Shiva posits that to understand and fight against "biopiracy" is to resist "the ultimate colonization of life itself - a struggle to conserve both cultural and biological diversity."
hBiopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledgeh is a fascinating and invaluable book that sheds much-needed light onto the controversies surrounding the ethics of biotechnology.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate writing about an important global subject 10 Feb 2005
By Danyallsun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Shiva takes on globalization and the overall anthropocentric view of the world's powers with an in depth look at how Intellectual Property Rights have been stripped from the commons into the hands of multinational governments and companies. Although the writing is sensational, the feelings run deep in the developing world. Acknowledgment of these feelings is an important step in the realization that the Western World has infringed on human rights and ecological balance. The conclusion that placing value in the diversity of cultures and in biodiversity can lead to a more peaceful world if IPR's are left out of private pockets should not be taken lightly.
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