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Ensuring developing countries benefit from the use of their resources in biotech inventions

The EU has submitted a proposal to the World trade organisation (WTO) outlining plans to help developing countries rich in biological resources benefit from biotech inventions that use their bio-resources. The proposals explores the relationship between the Trade-related aspe...

The EU has submitted a proposal to the World trade organisation (WTO) outlining plans to help developing countries rich in biological resources benefit from biotech inventions that use their bio-resources. The proposals explores the relationship between the Trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights (TRIPS) agreement, which enables biotech inventions to be patented, and the Convention on biological diversity, which is concerned with conserving biodiversity and its sustainable use. 'Many complex eco-systems could be mines of 'green gold' - medicines, new crop varieties and other benefits for the entire world,' said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, welcoming the initiative. 'It's only fair that the countries with such resources benefit from their exploitation. With today's move, the EU reaffirms its commitment to put development at the heart of the on-going WTO negotiations,' he said. Developing countries are concerned that the TRIPS agreement encourages those seeking patents of biotech inventions to overlook the principles of the Convention on biological diversity - researchers should obtain permission from the source countries of bio-material used in inventions and share the benefits with the country of origin. They claim that the absence of information on the geographical origin of bio-material used in inventions makes it difficult for them to keep track of the commercial use of these resources or to check whether the Convention of biological diversity is being respected. The EU proposal argues that the Convention and the TRIPS agreement are compatible, and can reinforce one another. The key proposal in the paper is that those who have used bio-materials and who are applying for patents for their new product should disclose the geographical origin of the material used.