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Directory of Genetic Resources Resources

Home > Society > Issues > Intellectual Property > Genetic Resources

The subset of Genetic Resources covers two broad areas of concern about intellectual property: aspects which impact on knowledge about the medical uses of genetic resources and those that impact on knowledge about their use for food and agriculture. Briefly, the debate on IPRs on genetic resources started in earnest when the first patents were granted in the USA in the mid 1980s. This has become a global issue with the coming into force of the World Trade Organisation and its Agreement on the Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property rights (TRIPs) and especially its controversial Article 27.3(b) on patenting of genetic resources. Prior to the 1980s the only IP issues concerned process patents for manipulating genetic resources and Plant Variety Protection agreements and Seed laws that governed acces and use of seeds. Wider than that, there is a concern to recognise that the knowledge component of genetic resources whose provenance is usually from 'wild' living organisms that have been nurtured by people or from local varieties and breeds that have been developed by farmers and pastoralists cannot be patented, because identification of genetic resources and their knowledge component can only be classed as a 'discovery'. "Beyond intellectual property" is now a common debate as genetic use restriction technologies and other control mechanisms are being researched and developed by corporations and their research institutes.


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