IP, Genetic Resources, Social Justice, and Development

The final Friday Session titled “IP, Genetic Resources, Social Justice, and Development” was chaired by Claire Foster-Gilbert, Director of the Westminster Abbey Institute.
Professor Ruth Okediji, William L. Prosser Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School gave a talk titled “Am I my brother’s keeper? Stewardship and the emerging international framework for the protection of genetic resources and Traditional Knowledge” where she cited Leviticus 19:9 and Deuteronomy 26:19 (and Christian Bible equivalents) which relate to the commandments of, when harvesting, leaving dropped wheat stalks for the poor to glean, leaving forgotten sheaves and not harvesting the last corner.

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This struck me as quite appropriate for someone named Ruth as the Book of Ruth describes these commandments in action. Professor Okedji’s noted that we are custodians rather than out and out owners, that bounty comes from God and when bringing a drug to market, there is a social obligation to remember the poor.

Professor Ruth Okediji is a member of the Living World Christian Center, a non-denominational, full gospel church, which is probably the kind of service that would result from crossing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach with Tina Turner.
What was significant about her talk was that it was the first attempt by any of the lecturers to cite Scripture and to relate religious obligations, which none of the Bishops felt comfortable doing.

Professor Graham Dutfield, Professor of International Governance, University of Leeds School of Law, Member of the International Scholars Networks of Intellectual Property in the Biosciences spoke on “Intellectual Property, Indigenous Customary Law, and the Benefit-Sharing Debate: Can it ever be resolved?” The talk was very much one of debunking standard paradigms given with enthusiasm and humour.  Memoriably, he noted that fabulously long incomprehensible sentences with a smattering of commas and the occasional random semicolons in IP treaties were invariably the result of careful negotiation, leaving each of the parties free to interpret as they like.
Professor Dutfield was followed by Dr Carlo Marenghi, IP & Trade Attaché: Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the UN Office in Geneva & WTO who spoke on Intellectual Property Rights and Global Policy Challenges: energizing the multilateral system. The conference broke up, to reconvene with a formal banquet sponsored by Syngenta, which indicated seemed like enlightened self interest by the global seed giant.

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