Introduction of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity and the growth of biotechnology processes have recently led anthropologists into the rapidly moving, ethically and philosophically challenging field of bioprospecting or exploring biological diversity for commercially valuable genetic and biochemical resources. Is bioprospecting an innovative mechanism that will () help produce new therapeutics and preserve traditional medical systems, () conserve both biological and cultural diversity by demonstrating their medical, economic, and social values, and () bring biotechnology and other benefits to biodiversity-rich but technology poor countries? Or is bioprospecting yet another form of colonialism—“bioimperialism”—wherein the North rips off the South's resources and intellectual property rights? This article reviews the current literature on bioprospecting that lies somewhere between current polemics and calls for more anthropological research into the bioprospecting process.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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