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ABSTRACT Practical knowledge of heredity predates history. Indigenous peoples laid the foundations of modern agriculture by developing plants such as corn. However, the language and metaphors of the Human Genome Project treat modern genetics as if it had no historical antecedents and fail to acknowledge these early contributions to the science of heredity. The results of this blindness are twofold: it exacerbates reluctance of native peoples to take part in genetic research and to garner the benefits of genetic medicine, and it encourages "biopiracy," as modern scientists "discover" and patent native plants.