Trade, foreign policy, diplomacy and health

5. Genomics Knowledge

Halla Thorsteinsdottir, Abdallah S Daar, Richard D Smith, Peter A Singer

GPG aspects of genomics

  • Genomics is principally about knowledge
  • Knowledge is non-excludable
  • Knowledge is non-rival
  • But goods within which genomics knowledge is embodied may not be
  • Genomics is global
  • Distinction between global production and dissemination of genomics knowledge, and its utilisation

Genomics is principally about knowledge; typically considered to be the archetypal public good. Knowledge, particularly that produced by basic research such as genomics, is often costly to produce, but once produced is virtually costless to reproduce and reuse and difficult/costly to exclude people from access to. In terms of genomics, much of what is found will typically be published in international journals, or on the Internet , open to all who wish to, and are able to, acquire it.

Knowledge is also non-rival. Numerous people can utilise information of the genome to generate new diagnostic tests or treatments. The knowledge itself is not depleted when used, making it possible for additional individuals to use knowledge for various purposes.

However, although the knowledge produced by genomics research is a public good, this does not mean that the goods within which the knowledge is embodied, that the utilisation of genomics, will not be excludable or rival.

Genomics is also global as it is based on examining the globally shared resource of the human genome. Further, the global nature of genomics has been reinforced by the impressive free collaboration between scientists, laboratories and countries in deciphering the human genome. This reflects the wish to make knowledge from the human genome available for the common good of mankind, with as few proprietary intrusions as possible.

However, there is perhaps a distinction to be made between the global production and dissemination of genomics knowledge, and its utilisation.