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The Human Genome as Common Heritage: Common Sense or Legal Nonsense?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2021


In the opening years of the 21st century, it became fashionable to describe the human genome as belonging to the common heritage of humanity. The United Nations, in its Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, now identifies the human genome as part of the common heritage, as does the international Human Genome Organization (HUGO) and the Council of Europe. The common heritage concept has played a prominent role in arguments against patenting the human genome or portions thereof. This essay considers whether the common heritage designation will advance the political and legal goals of its proponents.

Copyright © American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics 2007

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