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Reading: Biocolonialism: Examining Biopiracy, Inequality, and Power


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Biocolonialism: Examining Biopiracy, Inequality, and Power


Ashleigh Breske

Global Politics and Societies, Hollins University, US
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Colonialism has for centuries been a driving force for territorial expansion and economic gains.In today’s globalized economy, colonial exploitation continues in areas with great biodiversity through the taking of indigenous knowledge and biodiversity for profit, also colloquially known as biopiracy.Biopiracy is a practice of economic exploitation by powerful multinational corporations (MNCs) that take on the identity and power structures of nation-states, with established laws protecting the corporations that obtain patents or intellectual property rights more readily than the original indigenous knowledge holders.This type of ‘biocolonialism’ has been instituted through neoliberal trade practices and the whittling away of indigenous control over traditional knowledge.This is done on the premise that indigenous knowledge is communal, and not privately ‘owned,’ and therefore available to everyone.This interpretation of intellectual property rights has allowed MNCs to coopt indigenous knowledge for profit.Biopiracy can extend to multiple forms, including drug patents, agricultural gene manipulation, and genetic cell lines.This paper will review literature on biocolonialism and biopiracy examples to critique the practice and examine counterhegemonic praxes.
How to Cite: Breske, A., 2018. Biocolonialism: Examining Biopiracy, Inequality, and Power. Spectra, 6(2), pp.58–73. DOI:
Published on 28 Aug 2018.


  • Breske.pdf (EN)

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