Costs and Benefits of Bioprospecting

This topic submitted by Bethany Wise ( at 12:37 PM on 5/4/02.

A beautiful Praying Mantis, SE Costa Rica!

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

Costs and Benefits of Bioprospecting

By Bethany Wise

Bioprospecting is the exploration of the plants and animals, as well as the knowledge of indigenous peoples. Bioprospecting is a controversial issue. Some sources claim that it benefits the cites of biprospecting, while others claim that it is detrimental to the regions.
Bioprospecting is fueled by pharmaceutical companies, many of which reside in the U.S. These companies send researchers into the rainforests, and other flora filled areas, to catalog plant species and their possible uses. Many drugs, such as malaria fighting compounds, have been derived from species grown in the rainforests. These researchers often enlist the help of indigenous peoples and shamans, who have traditionally used regional species for medicinal purposes. In the past, these researchers often sent specimens and indigenous knowledge to pharmaceutical companies, without contributing any form of royalties to the region. New legislation was designed to alleviate this problem, but has not yet resolved the issue. The deliverance of royalties to the region and/or people is important not only to the economy and people, but also to the rainforests themselves. Hundreds of acres of rainforest are cleared daily, for farming and agriculture. Each time acres are cleared, yet undiscovered species are lost. If the local regions were given the royalties of pharmaceutical companies, it may not be necessary for local people to rely on farming and agriculture to make a living. The preservation of rainforest land would in turn lead to the protection of undiscovered species, and possibly undiscovered cures for disease and illnesses. Many other issues surround the topic of bioprospecting and its benefits and downfalls. Cases have even been documented, in which local people have been involved in biopiracy, or forms of bioprospecting which are not allowed under new legislation. Although illegal forms of bioprospecting have been occurring for some time, bioprospecting is by no means a dwindling problem.

Locke, Christopher. "Forest pharmers go bioprospecting. Looking for new drugs
in rain forests raises ethical questions." Red Herring.
April 12, 2001.

Samath, Feizal. "Biopiracy is Flourishing Thanks to Many Pharmaceutical
Companies." InterPress Service. Dec. 16, 1998.

Kingsley, Danny. "Bioprospecting gets a boost." ABC Science Onlie.
Sept. 25, 2001.

Sternlof, Kurt. ""Bioprospecting" Could Fuel Economic Incentives For Biological
Conservation." Columbia University News. Feb. 23, 2000.

Goering, Laurie. "Rain Forests May Offer New Miracle Drugs." Chicago Tribune.
Sept. 12, 1995.

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