The International Law of Biotechnology
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The International Law of Biotechnology

Human Rights, Trade, Patents, Health and the Environment

Matthias Herdegen

Biotechnology is a field that inspires complex legal and ethical debates on an international scale. Taking a fresh approach to the subject, Matthias Herdegen provides a comprehensive assessment of the regulation of biotechnology processes and products from an international and comparative perspective.
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Chapter 4: The biotech challenge to human dignity, life and freedom of choice: human rights

Matthias Herdegen


A growing number of human rights treaties contain provisions specifically addressing biotechnological concerns. Human rights bodies constantly deal with biotech-related cases. Human dignity has inspired and guided the development of human rights in this area. Many human rights have a bioethical dimension. The right to life involves fundamental bioethical questions, such as the beginning of human life and the personhood of embryos. Biomedical research is linked to the protection of health. The right to adequate food may lead to an enhancement of support for agricultural research. The respect for personal autonomy requires respect for the principle of informed consent in biomedical and genetic research. The right to privacy protects confidentiality of genetic data and the individual’s right to know (or not to know) about the results of genetic tests. The right to family life might also be a relevant factor in the management of genetic data. Finally, biotechnology raises new risks of discrimination (e.g. discrimination based on genetic features).

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