Governance of Genetic Resources
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Governance of Genetic Resources

A Guide to Navigating the Complex Global Landscape

Catherine Rhodes

Governance of Genetic Resources maps out a landscape of the international governance of genetic resources. It shows what governance efforts currently exist, what is missing, which areas are problematic, and outlines what the international community should be aiming for in regard to its future development and implementation.
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Chapter 7: Problems and implications

A Guide to Navigating the Complex Global Landscape

Catherine Rhodes


This chapter focuses on identifying some of the key problems and areas of contention in the current international governance of genetic resources. The following chapter will then look at how governance efforts might be improved in order to resolve some of these problems. IPRs can be applied to most inventions that utilize genetic resources and associated data. National policies and law vary, for example, as to whether human genetic resources are included in patentability, and on the extent of work involved to move a genetic resource from the realm of discovery to invention. The application of IPRs to genetic resources remains hugely controversial and has triggered changes to the way genetic resources are governed more broadly. For example, dissatisfaction with the way some companies were applying for intellectual property protection for genetic resources without acknowledging the contributions of or providing any benefits to provider states (and groups within them) prompted the shift to applying state sovereign rights to these resources. However, these more general shifts have done little to resolve the problems associated with IPRs and genetic resources. State practice appears to indicate acceptance of the application of IPRs to most genetic resources; however, patenting and other forms of intellectual property protection are practised predominantly by a few technologically advanced states.

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