Pacific Islanders Preyed on by Bio-Pirates

By Stephen LeahyCopyright 2004 Renate Leahy

Mar 20 (IPS) – The Pacific region has long been a favourite target of gene hunters, unethical bio-researchers and “patent bottom trawlers” looking to profit from its unique flora, fauna — and human beings.

Pacific Islanders have had their genes patented against their will. T-cells from the Hagahai tribe in Papua New Guinea can be purchased today on the internet for 216 dollars.

Cook Islanders were nearly the subjects of an experiment to transplant pig parts into humans in 2002. Had it proceeded, the U.S. would have labelled the Cook Islands a “rogue state” over fears about the potential spread of virulent pig retroviruses in humans, according to a new book launched by co-publishers Call of the Earth Llamado de la Tierra, and the United Nations University.

Call of the Earth Llamado de la Tierra is an independent indigenous initiative on intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge.

“The book is a catalogue of unethical experiences in the Pacific region,” said Aroha Mead, a senior lecturer at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, and co-editor of the book “Pacific Genes and Life Patents”, launched at the university Tuesday.

“There’s been a lot of bad behaviour here. Many researchers from the outside have a colonial attitude,” Mead told IPS from Wellington.

See Pacific Islanders Preyed on by Bio-Pirates for complete story. Check out this great Brazilian graphic made for the Portuguese translation of this story.

email: writersteve AT gmail . com for questions, story ideas, etc

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