p. 253 in Bioethics in Asia

Editors: Norio Fujiki and Darryl R. J. Macer, Ph.D.
Eubios Ethics Institute

Copyright 2000, Eubios Ethics Institute All commercial rights reserved. This publication may be reproduced for limited educational or academic use, however please enquire with the author.

7.4. Bioethical Issues in Human Genetics in India

Kailash C. Malhotra.

Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta 700 035, India

Indian society is an agglomeration of over 40,000 endogamous human groups displaying a rich socio-cultural, linguistic and biological diversity. India is also a mega- biodiversity area of the world with over 1,22000 wild species of plants and animals. This rich human and other biodiversity, as well as the structure of human populations (variable levels of inbreeding, large families, large number of rare genetic mutations, rare genetic disorders, etc.) continue to attract the interests of researchers from all over the world. However, recent advances in molecular genetic technology using DNA, human genome diversity initiatives (global and Indian), the rush for patenting human genome and other bio- diversity by western countries have raised serious ethical issues. This paper discusses the nature of emerging ethical issues and their likely impact on the future of genetic research in India and international collaboration in genetic and biodiversity related research. It discusses the various measures initiated by the Government and the debate generated by scientists, academic bodies and the NGOs. In concludes that while in the immediate run national and international legislation is essential, as well as value-based self-imposed ethics by all involved, in particular the scientific community, in the long run the global community must strive for complete ban on patenting of all live-forms, and create conditions for exchange of genetic materials, processes and technologies without royalty and fear, for the benefit of "every men and women and humanity as a whole, without infringing the rights of any" (George B. Kutukdjian); these have been the values pursued by human societies the world over, until recently during the course of their short but eventful evolutionary march and must be respected.

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