Legal control and ownership of plants and traditional knowledge of the uses of plants (TKUP) is often a vexed issue. The phenomenon of appropriation of plants and TKUP, otherwise known as biopiracy, thrives in a cultural milieu where non-Western forms of knowledge are systemically marginalized and devalued as "folk knowledge" or characterized as inferior. "Biopiracy" rethinks the role of international law and legal concepts, the Western-based, Eurocentric patent systems of the world, and international agricultural research institutions as they affect legal ownership and control of plants and TKUP. Observing that biopiracy issues are often buried in technical and diplomatic understatements, Mgbeoji examines the difficulty of discerning the issues at stake and the scale of international disagreements. The analysis is cast in various contexts and examined at multiple levels. The first deals with the Eurocentric character of the patent system, international law, and institutions. The second involves the cultural and economic dichotomy between the industrialized Western world and the westernizing, developing world.
The third level of analysis considers the phenomenal loss of human cultures and plant diversity. Mgbeoji implicates the traditionally Western patent system and international law, cultural and gender biases of Western epistemology, and the commercial orientation of the patent system in the appropriation and privatization of plants and TKUP. The impact of intellectual property law on indigenous peoples and informal or traditional innovations is a field of study that currently includes only a handful of scholars. Exhaustively researched and eloquently argued, "Biopiracy" will be an invaluable resource for students, teachers, and legal practitioners.