Environmental Ethics

Volume 21, Issue 2, Summer 1999

Anthony J. Stenson, Tim S. Gray
Pages 177-190

An Autonomy-Based Justification for Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Communities

The claim that indigenous communities are entitled to have intellectual property rights (IPRs) to both their plant varieties and their botanical knowledge has been put forward by writers who wish to protect the plant genetic resources of indigenous communities from uncompensated use by biotechnological transnational corporations. We argue that while it is necessary for indigenous communities to have such rights, the entitlement argument is an unsatisfactory justification for them. A more convincing foundation for indigenous community IPRs is the autonomy theory developed by Will Kymlicka.