6 Int'l. Trade & Bus. L. Ann. 323 (2001)
The Third Revolution: Plant Genetic Resources in Developing Countries and China: Global Village or Global Pillage

handle is hein.journals/itbla6 and id is 337 raw text is: The Third Revolution: Plant Genetic Resources
in Developing Countries and China:
Global Village or Global Pillage?
Alex Low*
Introduction
From the age of exploration, researchers and travellers transported discovered
plant species back to their own countries as new foods and raw materials for
plant breeding. Through expeditions to conquer and subjugate most of the
developing countries, agricultural materials were culled and screened for new
and useful crops. The Great Columbian exchange brought the tomato to Italian
cuisine and introduced the potato to Ireland.1 The UK Royal Botanical
Gardens at Kew benefited immeasurably from British travellers and
colonialists in South America. Indeed, it has been argued that the majesty of
Britain as a colonial power in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was
evident in the pre-eminence of the Kew Botanical Gardens.2 At that time,
control over plants meant power and wealth. During that epoch, the concept
that exotic plant species found in nature were freely accessible to the taker was
inaugurated.3
Developing countries protest that scientists from transnational corporations
(TNCs) are prospecting in their tropical forests for plant species, protecting
the discoveries through breeders' rights, and merchandising the plants back to
them at exorbitant prices. Developing countries view these TNC activities as
uncompensated exploitation of their plant genetic resources (PGRs) in the
name of intellectual property rights.
The increasing importance of plant biotechnology as a determinant of
international competitiveness has helped to foster a vigorous challenge by
developing countries to the concept of free accessibility to their PGRs. This
challenge by developing countries makes an analysis of the ownership and
legal status of PGRs crucial to the sustenance of plant biotechnology. It is
proposed to examine the issues of control of plant germplasm accession in
Alex Low, BEc Syd, MEc Syd, LLB(Hons) UTS, DipLabRel & the Law Syd, Senior Lecturer,
Business Law Department, Division of Law, Macquarie University, Sydney.
1  Rebecca L. Margulies, 'Protecting Biodiversity: Recognising International Intellectual Property
Rights in Plant Genetic Resources' (1993) 14 Michigan Journal of International La, 322 at 328.
2  Lawrence Busch et al, Plants Power, and Profit: Social, Economic, and Ethical Consequences of
the New Biotechnologies, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1991 at 59.
3  Margulies, supra, note I at 328.

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