Countries like America, Japan, United Kingdom, France and Germany are industrialised nations. These nations are advanced in technology with financial resources but compared with the Indian sub-continent are poor in biodiversity and traditional knowledge related to utilisation of flora and fauna that constitute the bioresources. The clandestine exploitation and utilisation of bioresources from a country by several organisations and multinational companies without proper authorisation is known as Biopiracy. Although the developing nations are not so financially sound, they are however rich in traditional knowledge and biodiversity.
For a very long period, the tribal people in the remote areas of jungles as also the people of rural areas have been using certain important herbal plants for treating certain diseases. Since, the habitations of the tribal people are surrounded by a variety of plants and animals, they have acquired a sound knowledge of their uses particularly of their medicinal values.
This knowledge can be exploited to develop commercially important drugs from the plants. Traditional knowledge has greater utility value as it saves time, effort and expenditure for their commercialisation. Multinational companies of the rich nations are collecting and exploiting the bioresources without any authorization in the following ways:
1. Plants like Catharanthus roseus (Vinca rosea) are exported to countries as medicinal plants since they possess anticancerous properties.
The companies of the rich nations are interested in the biomolecules present in the plant. These compounds produced by living organisms are patented and used for commercial activities. As a result of this, the farmers who cultivate the crop are being deprived of their rightful claims and compensations.
2. The genetic resources of the developing nations are over exploited by the rich nations. For instance, Basmati rice is a crop grown indigenously in India from a very long time. In U.S.A the Government had granted a patent to cover the entire 'basmati' rice plant so that other countries or institutions cannot undertake any other research programmes pertaining to Basmati plant. In U.S.A, such patents are given for 17 long years.
3. Pentadiplandra brazzeana, a native plant of West Africa, produces a protein called brazzein. It is several 100 times as sweet as sugar. Local people use it as a low-calorie sweetener. This development could have serious implications for sugar exporting countries.
Richer nations are over exploiting the commercial resources of the developing countries without adequate compensation. With advances in scientific equipments, instruments and techniques, the biodiversity of the poor and developing nations of the tropics are overused and exploited by the rich nations. There is a growing awareness of this over exploitation and hence the developing countries are enacting legislative laws to prevent this over exploitation by the rich nations.