Of Medicines and Markets: Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Free Trade Era

Of Medicines and Markets: Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Free Trade Era

Of Medicines and Markets: Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Free Trade Era

Of Medicines and Markets: Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Free Trade Era

Synopsis

Central American countries have long defined health as a human right. But in recent years regional trade agreements have ushered in aggressive intellectual property reforms, undermining this conception. Questions of IP and health provisions are pivotal to both human rights advocacy and "free" trade policy, and as this book chronicles, complex political battles have developed across the region.

Looking at events in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala, Angelina Godoy argues that human rights advocates need to approach intellectual property law as more than simply a roster of regulations. IP represents the cutting edge of a global tendency to value all things in market terms: Life forms-from plants to human genetic sequences-are rendered commodities, and substances necessary to sustain life-medicines-are restricted to insure corporate profits. If we argue only over the terms of IP protection without confronting the underlying logic governing our trade agreements, then human rights advocates will lose even when they win.

Excerpt

As she explains, Angelina Snodgrass Godoy first took notice of the coming conflicts around human rights, intellectual property, and the demands of global free trade regimes during a research trip to Guatemala, a country that was slowly emerging from the social ravages of a decades-long civil war and the horrors of a genocide committed against its indigenous populations. As the process of postconflict reconciliation and accounting matured, albeit unevenly and without resolution, the coalitions of local and transnational human rights networks that had coalesced around demands for justice broke apart, the topic of the genocide itself disappeared from national newspapers, and the country retreated into its more mundane struggles with poverty, development, and political transition. But, at the same time, Guatemala, like other countries in Central America, was negotiating the terms of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the regional version of the earlier nafta that had brought Canada, the United States, and Mexico together into a controversial free trade zone. Although Guatemalan human rights activists were not focused initially on cafta, they soon realized that the terms of the agreement, especially around intellectual property, threatened the human rights of Guatemalans in more subtle ways. These included the deeply ingrained right to health, because a key provision of cafta outlined strong intellectual property protections that would make it more difficult for poor countries like Guatemala to produce cheaper generic drugs that were affordable and locally available.

Some of these drugs represented the difference between life and death for people, including the antiretrovirals that are used to treat patients with hiv. Godoy observed as the serious implications of cafta for people in Guatemala soon dawned on patients, government workers, and human . . .

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