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Two different ethical notions of benefit sharing of genetic resources and their implications for global development

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Can genomics working with crop genetic resources, which can be relevant for developing countries, contribute in reducing the gap between rich and poor countries in using modern biotechnologies? In this paper we concentrate on the extent to which benefit sharing of genetic resources can be a mechanism to harness genomics for development and to reduce the “biotechnology divide” or “genomics divide”. First we analyze the existing arrangements (Convention on Biological Biodiversity, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, FAO 2001) and we conclude that these presuppose predominantly a concept of commutative justice, which is at the basis of considerable drawbacks. Secondly we propose arrangements founded on another concept of justice, distributive justice, which forbids enhancing (existing) inequalities. Upstream benefit sharing of genetic resources is proposed as an interesting alternative, which connects with several coalitions of scientists and poor farmers in the third world. These alternatives offer good prospects to contribute to the reduction of the “genomics divide”.
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Keywords: benefit sharing; commutative justice; distributive justice; genetic resources

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Applied Philosophy, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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