Gender issues in biotechnology policy and trade are rapidly emerging as some of the most interesting and challenging within these fields. Gender issues have been identified in three important areas affected by biotechnology, namely, agriculture, traditional knowledge, and health. The policy discussion on these matters is still in its early stages and more research will be needed in order to formulate approaches that adequately incorporate a gender perspective. Gendered aspects of biotechnology also raise concerns in international trade law, which have not yet been addressed in the current legal framework at any level, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) regime. This paper will analyse some of these trends and then propose ways in which gender might be mainstreamed into biotechnology policy and trade in order to better suit the needs of women.
There are at least two reasons why gender issues should be viewed as a concern within the context of biotechnology policy and trade. One reason is linked to the idea of gender equality, and the other is linked to sustainable development. First, not all members of society have benefited equally from the advances in science and technology and women as a group suffer disproportionately more than men in this respect. Women continue to be overlooked in the development and transfer of science and technology. This contradicts the consensus within the international community that women are entitled to equality with men in all aspects of human life.