Addressing Nano Divide

Monday, March 13, 2006

When in 1997 South Africa imported patented drugs sold in a third country and passed a law endorsing for pararell importation, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) listed South Africa as a candidate for trade sanctions. This was followed by a move made by more than forty pharmaceutical companies together filing a lawsuits in South African courts challenging the government's action. The AIDS drug story above is one example on how knowledge has been abused by greed.

What impact would nanotechnology brings?

Certainly, Nanotechnology may magnify existing disparities between the rich and poor, creating what is termed with “nano divide.” Nanotechnology will bring comparative advantage in terms of natural resources to be obsolete, as material scarcity is no longer an issue. On the other hand, nanotechnology will accelerate the trend toward corporate ring concentration of power and monopoly formation, because the research is too expensive and complex for small organizations to conduct.

Currently, Nanotechnology is already evolving into a global patent landscape where multinational corporations are attempting to own downstream access rights to enabling technologies. Like the AIDS drugs, these corporations will control the future "wet nanotechnology", that is to say the use of nanotechnology in biological systems to create medicines. With control over medication, medicines and nanoscience, multinational corporations will continue to play a strong role in shaping global rules for trade, monetary and fiscal policies, intellectual property rights, and social policies.

These conditions would require policies which specifically addresses accountability of Multi National Corporation, and a policy that would guarantee utilization of knowledge for humanitarian purposes. A way in doing this is by limiting intellectual property protection. Some friend of ours have attampted to propose a draft access to knowledge treaty, in order to limit IPR protection and ensure that no impediments are imposed when knowledge is utilized for humanitarian purpose. I will discuss this in my next posts. In the mean time, you might be interested in reading the draft treaty.

Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani


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