Biopiracy or biopirating, is the appropriation of a living being and restriction of its use by submitting a patent. Biopiracy threatens both biodiversity and work by small producers in developing countries. In the race to submit patents, small producers pale into insignificance alongside large companies from rich countries.
In August 2000, the DuPont company was awarded a patent on a procedure allowing it to produce varieties of corn with high oleic acid content. It then transpired that the patent not only covered the question of processing but more generally all corn containing this amount of oleic acid. Things would have stopped there if these types of corn did not exist naturally or had not already been produced for a long time by selection. According to the Mexican Corn Research Centre (CIMMYT), however, this was the case. Therefore, in theory this patent did far more than protect the DuPont company's process. It could theoretically prevent the marketing of any corn containing amounts of oleic acid protected by the company, including its sale by small producers.