Conception of an Encyclopedia
Edited By Jürgen G. Backhaus
Patenting Genetic Marine Resources: A Private Or A Public Choice? Domenico da Empoli
1. The Convention on Biological Diversity defines genetic resources as “genetic material of actual or potential value” and genetic material as “any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity” (art. 2). Activities related to marine genetic resources are quite recent and include three typologies: scientific investigation of the oceans and their biological processes; research and development or “bioprospecting” and exploitation. At the current stage, various drugs, etc. derived from marine microorganisms (and in particular those extracted from the deep sea-bed) are now tested, appar- ently very successfully, in pharmacology for the treatment of cancer, tubercolosis, malaria and many other diseases. A number of patents in relation to development of biotechnology from deep-sea genetic resources has been granted already, not only in the domain of pharmacology, but also in the areas of chemistry, cosmet- ics, food and agriculture. 2. Considering the interest of these resources, a debate is currently going on in various international bodies (the United Nations Informal Consultative Pro- cess on the Law of the Sea, the meetings on the Convention on Biological Diver- sity, the United Nations General Assembly, the FAO, etc.) on the access to these resources and on the possible sharing of benefits from their exploitation (whether these benefits should be shared by the entire international community or only by the states, or by the individual firms with the capacity to exploit deep seabed genetic resources). This debate includes two components: A) the issue of the current legal frame- work...
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