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Traditional Knowledge and Benefit Sharing with Developing Countries [2006/09]

Project Team: Dr. Sachin Chaturvedi

In the context of commercial exploitation of biodiversity and traditional knowledge by corporations, benefit sharing is an area of increasing international debate at the different levels of policy making including at WHO, WTO and WIPO. RIS is participating in an international project launched by the University of Central Lancashire and supported by the European Commission on “Sharing with Developing Countries – from Biodiversity to Human Genomics”. The other partner institutions are the University of Preston, United Kingdom; University of the Witwatersrand; University of South Africa; Centre d’Ethique, France; Vilnius University (VU), Vilnius, Lithuania; and University of the Philippines (UP), Manila, Philippines. Despite the central significance of this especially in the context of economic implications for the indigenous community, these have hardly been discussed or researched in depth. Benefit sharing occurs mainly in two areas: human genetic banking for the purpose of pharmacogenomics or population genomics research (human genetic resources), and use of traditional knowledge from indigenous communities mainly by the pharmaceutical industry to develop new products (non-human genetic resources). This project seeks to establish an interdisciplinary team of economists, ethicists, lawyers, medical doctors, specialists in gender studies, representatives of indigenous communities and policy advisors from the five continents. The teams will study four paradigmatic international case studies (from India, South Africa, Iceland, and Kenya) to provide a profound state-of-the-art analysis for benefit sharing in the context of human and non-human resources. Based on this comparative research, the main aim of this project is to promote policy developments by developing an “economies/ethics health check” for benefit sharing agreements involving vulnerable groups and communities in the area of human genetics.