Biopiracy of natural products and good bioprospecting practice

Thomas Efferth, Mita Banerjee, Norbert W. Paul, Sara Abdelfatah, Joachim Arend, Gihan Elhassan, Sami Hamdoun, Rebecca Hamm, Chunlan Hong, Onat Kadioglu, Janine Naß, Dominic Ochwangi, Edna Ooko, Nadire Ozenver, Mohamed E.M. Saeed, Mathias Schneider, Ean Jeong Seo, Ching Fen Wu, Ge Yan, Maen ZeinoQiaoli Zhao, Mohammad S. Abu-Darwish, Kai Andersch, Gladys Alexie, Dawn Bessarab, Dipita Bhakta-Guha, Vanderlan Bolzani, Else Dapat, Fedor V. Donenko, Monika Efferth, Henry J. Greten, Leslie Gunatilaka, Ahmed A. Hussein, Asuman Karadeniz, Hassan E. Khalid, Victor Kuete, Ik Soo Lee, Liang Liu, Jacob Midiwo, Rodrigo Mora, Hiroshi Nakagawa, Olipa Ngassapa, Chanai Noysang, Leonida K. Omosa, Fred Hwiemtun Roland, Abdelaaty A. Shahat, Antoine Saab, Elfatih M. Saeed, Letian Shan, Salam J.J. Titinchi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background Biopiracy mainly focuses on the use of biological resources and/or knowledge of indigenous tribes or communities without allowing them to share the revenues generated out of economic exploitation or other non-monetary incentives associated with the resource/knowledge. Methods Based on collaborations of scientists from five continents, we have created a communication platform to discuss not only scientific topics, but also more general issues with social relevance. This platform was termed 'PhytCancer -Phytotherapy to Fight Cancer' ( As a starting point, we have chosen the topic "biopiracy", since we feel this is of pragmatic significance for scientists working with medicinal plants. Results It was argued that the patenting of herbs or natural products by pharmaceutical corporations disregarded the ownership of the knowledge possessed by the indigenous communities on how these substances worked. Despite numerous court decisions in U.S.A. and Europe, several international treaties, (e.g. from United Nations, World Health Organization, World Trade Organization, the African Unity and others), sharing of a rational set of benefits amongst producers (mainly pharmaceutical companies) and indigenous communities is yet a distant reality. In this paper, we present an overview of the legal frameworks, discuss some exemplary cases of biopiracy and bioprospecting as excellent forms of utilization of natural resources. Conclusions We suggest certain perspectives, by which we as scientists, may contribute towards prevention of biopiracy and also to foster the fair utilization of natural resources. We discuss ways, in which the interests of indigenous people especially from developing countries can be secured.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-173
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 15 2016


  • Bioethics
  • Bioprospecting
  • Commercialization
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Intellectual property
  • Patent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Complementary and alternative medicine


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