What do the opium poppy, the white willow tree, the spoiled sweet clover, the Madagascar periwinkle, and the fungus Penicillium have in common? Each of these species contains biochemicals that have been tapped to "advance" medicine. Biodiversity prospecting ("bioprospecting") is often understood as the systematic search for biochemical and genetic information in nature in order to develop commercially valuable products for pharmaceutical, agricultural, cosmetic, and other applications. Contemporary medical innovation depends on bioprospecting to remain "cutting edge," but what are the human and ecological costs of this rapidly changing industry? This course explores the social, political, and environmental impacts and ethical implications of the global search for new biological resources. We will study the role of indigenous knowledge, the problem of biopiracy, the politics of intellectual rights, and patenting culture in our quest to understand what is at stake in the regulation, reform, and growth of this problematic indicator of public health, biotechnology, and historical and "modern" medicine in the global economy.
Course Attributes: EN S; BU BA; BU IS; AS LCD; AS SSC