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In a delicate balancing act between developing and industrialised countries, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has agreed to intensify efforts to protect traditional knowledge and genetic resources, but has stopped short of committing to a full international treaty.

WIPO’s General Assembly, which ended early this month, authorised “the possible development of an international instrument or instruments” after a divisive debate. Brazil, Venezuela, and some African countries wanted an international treaty within two years, but industrialised countries wanted a more gradual approach.

Francis Gurry, WIPO’s Assistant Director-General and legal counsel, hailed the compromise, which was reached 18 months after the UN agency began discussions on traditional knowledge and similar issues. WIPO officials hope there will be some form of internationally agreed action on traditional knowledge, folklore and genetic resources in the next 3-4 years.

Link to full news article in The Lancet*

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Reference: The Lancet, 362, 9391