Biopiracy is a learned, clear and passionately stated objection to the ways in which Western businesses are being allowed to expropriate natural processes and traditional forms of knowledge. Praise for Biopiracy "Biopiracy is a path-breaking work on one of the most important issues of the coming century. 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. The Native American population declined from 72 million in to less than 4 million a few centuries later. The principle of effective occupation by christian princes has been replaced by effective occupation by the transnational corporations supported by modern-day rulers.
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Start your review of Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge Write a review Shelves: colonialism , democracy , environment , gardens , struggle , violence I only recently read her for the first time and had my giant activist-writer crush, but Biopiracy might have been even better. Another three of her books were sitting on the shelves here, happy days, so I picked this one up. Colonialism and capitalism vs life with insights into all three.
I loved it, and am finding it very useful in thinking about how we arrived where we are now and just what we are up against as well as where hope lies.
She argues that … each time a global order has tried to wipe out diversity and impose homogeneity, disorder and disintegration have been induced, not removed. Nature was transformed into dead and manipulable matter. Its capacity to renew and grow had been denied. The violence against nature, and the disruption of its delicate interconnections, was a necessary part of denying its self-organizing capacity.
And this violence against nature, in turn, translated into violence in society. Anything not fully managed or controlled by European men was seen as a threat. This included nature, non-Western societies, and women. What was self-organized was considered wild, out of control, and uncivilized. This is such a key insight on the intrinsic connection between violence and capitalism, the ways that violence against nature is mirrored by and indivisible from violence against society.
The nature of this violence has changed, but has the same roots and is manifested through all three waves. The land titles issued by the pope through European kings and queens were the first patents.
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. Through patents and genetic engineering, new colonies are being carved out. The land, the forests, the rivers, the oceans, and the atmosphere have all been colonized, eroded, and polluted.
These new colonies are, in my view, interior spaces of the bodies of women, plants and animals. Resistance to biopiracy is a resistance to the ultimate colonization of life itself--of the future of evolution as well as the future of non-Western traditions of relating to and knowing nature.
It is a struggle to protect the freedom of diverse species to evolve. It is a struggle to protect the freedom of diverse cultures to evolve. It is a struggle to conserve both cultural and biological diversity.
I have focused more on the broader ideas and philosophies, though I love that this a book to incite and facilitate meaningful struggle to change these terrifying and unjust world systems. She starts with a very interesting look at the nature of creativity.
This is at the heart of the current debates about patents on life. Patents on life enclose the creativity inherent in living systems that reproduce and multiply in self-organized freedom. They enclose the interior spaces of the bodies of women, plants, and animals. They also enclose the free spaces of intellectual creativity by transforming publicly generated knowledge into private property.
Intellectual property rights on life forms are supposed to reward and stimulate creativity. The creativity inherent in living organisms that allows them to evolve, recreate and regenerate themselves. The creativity of indigenous communities that have developed knowledge systems to conserve and utilize the rich biological diversity of our planet 3.
The creativity of modern scientists in university of corporate laboratories who find ways to use living organisms to generate profits. Central to this is the idea that people will only innovate if they can profit from their innovation through a system of patent protection. This is so ludicrous yet so ubiquitous. It is clear why such a lethal combination of ideas leads to the destruction cultural commons and skews research away from areas that are key in terms of importance and or social need, to focus on profit-generating studies.
This is an enclosure of the intellectual commons, and I am loving the idea of commons broadened in this way.
Can Life be Owned? For tehse same genes present in food that people are attempting to refrain from eating or demanidning that they be identified, corporate arguments are that they are perfectly natural and therefore harmless.
Again to the subject of violence: Patenting living organisms encourages two forms of violence. First, life forms are treated as if they are mere machines, thus denying their self-organizing capacity. Second, by allowing the patenting of future generations of plants and animals, the self-reproducing capacity of living organisms is denied. Reductionism biology is multifaceted. At the species level, this reductionism puts value on only one species—humans—and generates an instrumental value for all others.
It therefore displaces and pushes to extinction all species whose instrumental value to humans is small or non-existent. Monocultures of species and biodiversity erosion are the inevitable consequences of reductionist thought in biology, especially when applied to forestry, agriculture, and fisheries.
We call this first-order reductionism. Reductionist biology is increasingly characterized by a second-order reductionism—genetic reductionism—the reduction of all behaviour of biological organisms, including humans, to genes.
Second-order reductionism amplifies the ecological risks of first-order reductionism, while introducing new issues, like the patenting of life forms. It makes us forget that living organisms organize themselves. It robs us of our capacity for the reverence of life—and without that capacity, protection of the diverse species on the planet is impossible. They are resilient one of the latest buzzwords and adaptable, all those things being praised by the new thinking around networks and connectivity being written about by Fritjof Capra , Nabeel Hamdi , permaculturists , transitionists , and slime mould enthusiasts among others.
The freedom for diverse species and ecosystems to self-organize is the basis of ecology. Ecological stability derives from the ability of species and ecosystems to adapt, evolve and respond. I like how this is as true of a smallholding such as the one I am working on now, as it is for the East End community I was in before I came here. Instead we have the likes of Monsanto with their weed killers, and scary chemical escalations. There is plenty in this chapter about such things, if you needed more ammunition for your Monsanto-driven fury.
The Seed and the Earth Regeneration lies at the heart of life: it has been the central principle guiding sustainable societies. Without regeneration, there can be no sustainability. Modern industrial society, however, has no time for thinking about regeneration, and therefore no space for living regeneratively.
Its devaluation of the processes of regeneration are the causes of both the ecological crisis and the crisis of sustainability. Yet Monsanto and others have been working at it for years. This is, of course, connected to power, and Shive argues it is rooted long ago when the facilitating ideas of production and value emerged. The continuity between regeneration in human and nonhuman nature that was the basis of all ancient worldviews was broken by patriarchy.
People were separated from nature, and the creativity involved in processes of regeneration was denied. Creativity became the monopoly of men, who were considered to be engaged in production; women were engaged in mere reproduction or recreation…looked upon as non-productive. The patriarchal construct of the passivity of earth and the consequent creation of the colonial category of land as terra nullius served two purposes: it denied the existence and prior rights of original inhabitants, and it negated the regenerative capacity and life processes of the earth.
It needed massive and expensive inputs for profit to take place. The commodified seed is ecologically incomplete and ruptured at two levels: First, it does not reproduce itself, whereas by definition seed is a regenerative resource…Second, it does not produce by itself: it needs the help of other purchased inputs… 54 A perfect pairing to maximise profit.
Thus the patenting of seeds. Another definition I quite love, and hope to think through more are these conceptions of ideological boundaries defined and contested: The transformation of value into disvalue, labour into nonlabour, knowledge into non-knowledge, is achieved by two very powerful constructs: the production boundary and the creation boundary.
The production boundary is a political construct that excludes regenerative, renewable production cycles from the domain of production…When economies are confined to the marketplace, self-sufficiency in the economic domain is seen as economic deficiency. The creation boundary does to knowledge what the production boundary does to work: it excludes the creative contributions of women as well as Third World peasants and tribespeople, and vies them as being engaged in unthinking, repetitive, biological processes.
The main contribution of the ecology movement has been the awareness that there is no separation between mind and body, human and nature. Nature consists of the relationships and connections that provide the very conditions for our life and health. This politics of connection and regeneration… 66 4. Once a commons, all of it is now being enclosed as local knowledge is displaced and devalued in favour of specialized scientific knowledge, and gift economies around seeds replaced with patents.
Really it is all biopiracy. We need to recover our biodiversity commons. It also alienates rights of people to the land they live on as produce sold elsewhere, cuts their connections and sense of stewardship.
You want ammunition to win the argument that all these acronyms are evil? You will find it all here. Making Peace with Life A final paragraph on violence and monoculture -- this fascinated me perhaps more than anything else, as I have worked so much researching segregation and white obsessions with purity and homogeneity that they have defended with such everyday grassroots violence. These are so clearly associated one with the other, and there is so much more here I think to be investigated.
Homogenization and monocultures introduce violence at many levels. Monocultures are always associated with political violence—the use of coercion, control, and centralization. Without centralized control and coercive force, this world filled with the richness of diversity cannot be transformed into homogenous structures, and the monocultures cannot be maintained…. This violence not only pushes species toward extinction, but controls and maintains monocultures the,selves.
Monocultures are non-sustainable and vulnerable to ecological breakdown. Uniformity implies that a disturbance to one part of a system is translated into a disturbance to other parts Instead of being contained, ecological destabilization tends to be amplified.
Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge