In Practice

Exporting DNA – striking a balance between preventing exploitation and promoting innovation

M S Pepper


DNA contains the blueprint of life. Variations in the script determine the great diversity that characterises our planet. As the analysis of large datasets derived from DNA reveals the hidden secrets of normal and abnormal structure and function as well as our ancestry, the movement of DNA between research laboratories is becoming commonplace. DNA is a resource that can be used for the benefit or to the detriment of the individuals and communities from which it is derived. But can DNA be treated as a simple commodity? How do we deal with questions such as sovereignty, discrimination and commercialisation? What underlies the current trends in attempting to regulate the movement of DNA? And how can we achieve a balance between preventing exploitation and promoting innovation? This brief overview attempts to contextualise the current landscape in South Africa with regard to the DNA that is destined to leave our shores.

Author's affiliations

M S Pepper, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Medicine; South African Medical Research Council Extramural Unit for Stem Cell Research and Therapy; Department of Immunology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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DNA; Export; Genomics; Ethics; Law; Exploitation; Commercialisation

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(2):106-107. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i2.12122

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-01-30
Date published: 2017-01-30

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