Bioprospecting is the search for useful organic compounds in nature. This results in the examination of many different biological samples. Bioprospecting takes place anywhere in the biosphere from rainforest in search of new medicines to geothermal pools where heat loving microbes are gathered and used in the production of organic materials. Many plant samples are taken from tropical forests and screened for medical use. New chemicals found are entered into a chemical library which is built up for the scientific community to use.
Bioprospecting and biopiracy are one result of often unfair intellectual property rights. According to certain patent laws a person or company can actually patent living organism or gene sequences. This has led various companies from pharmaceuticals to agribusiness to send scientists into remote areas of the world looking for potentially profitable bits of living matter to patent before anyone else gets to them. Furthermore it has often been the case, in biopiracy, where the companies have exploited indigenous local knowledge to find medicinal plants and then precluded them from the subsequent patents effective outlawing their use of their own traditional cures.
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