Trading the Genome

Trading the Genome: Investigating the Commodification of Bio-Information

BRONWYN PARRY
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/parr12174
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  • Book Info
    Trading the Genome
    Book Description:

    In a groundbreaking work that draws on anthropology, history, philosophy, business and law, Parry links firsthand knowledge of the operation of the bioprospecting industry to a sophisticated analysis of broader economic, regulatory, and technological transformations to reveal the complex economic and political dynamics that underpin the new global trade in bio-information.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50929-9
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. PREFACE
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
  7. 1. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-11)

    Late one Thursday afternoon in February 1996, I arrived in the sleepy town of Frederick in the heart of rural Maryland. As I stepped out of the car, my escort directed me towards a wholly unremarkable brown warehouse. It was a bright afternoon and, as we entered the facility, it took some moments for my eyes to adjust to the light, but as they did, I began to discern the familiar shapes of bulky machinery, equipment, and storage containers. Or at least they seemed familiar. But as my guide drew me onward, he explained that the units looming overhead and...

  8. 2. THE COLLECTION OF NATURE AND THE NATURE OF COLLECTING
    (pp. 12-41)

    The collection of rare natural materials as a project for the “acquisition of the exotic” has a long and well-established history. Late-medieval princes, from Frederick II to the Duke of Burgundy, included rare and exotic natural objects among their most coveted (and private) possessions.¹ In 1514, King Manuel I of Portugal made a gift to Pope Leo X of a white elephant, “Hanno,” the first to be seen in Rome since the fall of the Roman Empire.² The arrival of the elephant was an event witnessed by countless thousands of spectators. Every rooftop was packed with astounded onlookers, all avidly...

  9. 3. SPEEDUP: ACCELERATING THE SOCIAL AND SPATIAL DYNAMICS OF COLLECTING
    (pp. 42-101)

    Having devoted the previous chapter to outlining the long history of collecting within natural history, it might seem foolhardy to begin this one by suggesting that contemporary bioprospecting—this new phase of collecting—is in any way a “new” phenomenon. As the review in chapter two clearly illustrated, the project of collecting plants, animals, and other organisms for industrial, agricultural, or medicinal purposes has a long and well-documented history.¹ Set within this context, “bioprospecting” appears to be little more than a fancy new descriptor for an age-old practice. The fact that bioprospecting activities are undertaken by the same coterie of...

  10. 4. NEW COLLECTORS, NEW COLLECTIONS
    (pp. 102-149)

    The life-sciences industry, which can be broadly defined as including all those sectors that take the manufacture or engineering of life forms as the basis of their productivity, has grown dramatically over the last two decades as the biotechnological revolution has expanded the uses to which biology can be put. Industrial growth is often accompanied by a concomitant rise in demand for raw materials—in this case, for genetic and biochemical materials that might form the basis of a host of new products. As Sarah Laird and Kerry ten Kate estimate in their 1999 work, The Commercial Uses of Biodiversity,...

  11. 5. THE FATE OF THE COLLECTIONS
    (pp. 150-199)

    The resurgence of interest in collecting biological materials, which began in the 1980s and culminated with the introduction of so many new bioprospecting programs, set in motion a new “cycle of accumulation.” Biological materials are, once again, being collected in many parts of the world and concentrated in dedicated repositories located now, as they have been historically, in the principal scientific research establishments of the developed world. Many of the largest of these repositories are now to be found not in Europe but in the United States, in what might be termed “New World centers of calculation.” Of course, institutions...

  12. 6. TAMING THE SLIPPERY BEAST: REGULATING TRADE IN BIO-INFORMATION
    (pp. 200-248)

    As a consequence of the introduction of new technologies such as photocopiers, digital scanners, computers, satellite communications, cable television, and the Internet, it has become possible to render the information that has historically been embodied in particular artifactual forms—as books, paintings, documents, and the like—in new artifactual forms—as software files, digitized images, and electronic data. Liberated from the physical housing in which it was previously embodied, this information becomes footloose—able to be circulated, copied, archived, and recombined at speed and with comparative ease. Fluid and mutable, it is free to travel along the many capillaries that...

  13. 7. BACK TO THE FUTURE
    (pp. 249-266)

    As I sit down to conclude this work, I have before me copies of the daily papers, each of which makes reference to the forthcoming Earth Summit on Sustainable Development that is about to commence in Johannesburg, South Africa. As exactly ten years have now elapsed since the Convention on Biological Diversity was first implemented, it seems an appropriate, and timely moment to reflect on how the introduction of this new regulatory regime has affected approaches to the utilization and stewardship of what has become, in the course of that same decade, one of the world’s most valuable commodities: genetic...

  14. APPENDIX: METHODOLOGY
    (pp. 267-270)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 271-296)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 297-308)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 309-320)