Intended for healthcare professionals


Sharing the benefits of genetic research

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 08 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1351
  1. Doris Schroeder, reader in ethics and acting head of centre (,
  2. Miltos Ladikas, international development officer,
  3. Udo Schuklenk, professor and head of centre,
  4. Carolina Lasén Lasén Diáz, environmental lawyer,
  5. Anita Kleinsmidt, acting head,
  6. Fatima Alvarez-Castillo,, professor in social sciences,
  7. Dafna Feinholz, chair, Latin American Federation of Ethical Review Committees
  1. Centre for Professional Ethics, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE
  2. Centre for Professional Ethics, University of Central Lancashire, Preston PR1 2HE
  3. Centre for Ethics, Public Policy and Corporate Governance, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow G4 0BA
  4. 9 rue des Veaux, 67000 Strasbourg, France
  5. University of Witwatersrand, Faculty of Health Sciences, Bioethics Division, Johannesburg, South Africa
  6. University of the Philippines, Department of Social Sciences, Diliman, Quezon City 1101, Philippines
  7. National Commission of Bioethics, 01900 Mexico DF, Mexico

    Campaigners are calling on policy makers at next week's sixth World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Hong Kong to make trade fairer for and improve the lives and health of the world's poorest people. This broad and important aim may dominate the headlines, but ministers will also be discussing technical issues surrounding international patenting laws. One issue with implications for the development of medical products is the tension between international patenting laws and benefit sharing requirements, which may threaten agreements on protecting biodiversity. If the biodiversity door shuts because of protests in developing countries, pharmaceutical research will be seriously hampered.

    In Hong Kong the World Trade Organization can stop the exploitation of non-human genetic material and traditional knowledge by aligning the trade related intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreement with the Convention on Biological Diversity. Over the past decade benefit sharing has become a recurrent theme in international debates on human and non-human genetics. The term arose from the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted at the 1992 earth summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.1 The convention …

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