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Report of the International Bioethics Committee on Ethics, Intellectual Property and Genomics

This report arose from a realisation of the need to clarify international intellectual property law in light of recent advances in genomics, most visibly the mapping of the human genome. It is the result of a working party convened by UNESCO in 2001.

The report hinges on the following key issues:

  • The broad shift away from publicly funded pure science;
  • The intimacy of the study of the human genome to individual and groups of people
  • Refocusing of research priorities away from the greatest human need to the greatest achievable profit;
  • "Premature protection" brought about by rapid and blanket acquiring of patents while the study of the genome is still in its infancy and poorly understood;
  • A lack of equity in benefit sharing, whereby developing countries do not accrue the correct benefits for the utilisation of genetic material sourced from their countries.

  • The report acknowledges the strengths and the weaknesses of current legislative frameworks surrounding bioethics and endorses the creation of an inter-agency committee on bioethics, and for closer links between governments, scientists, institutes and corporations engaged in genomic research. It also acknowledges the potential for genomics to widen the technology and the knowledge gap and calls for closer relationships between institutions like WHO and UNESCO.

     

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