Cover of Of Medicines and Markets by Angelina Snodgrass Godoy
Of Medicines and Markets
Intellectual Property and Human Rights in the Free Trade Era
Angelina Snodgrass Godoy


208 pages.
from $26.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804785600
Paperback ISBN: 9780804785617
Ebook ISBN: 9780804786577

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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.

About the author

Angelina Snodgrass Godoy is Helen H. Jackson Chair in Human Rights and founding director of the Center for Human Rights at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is the author of Popular Injustice: Violence, Community, and Law in Latin America (Stanford University Press, 2006).

"Godoy grounds her inquiry on the interface between transnational human rights advocates and the socio-political context, the health system, and local activists . . . This book is a dense, provocative, and detailed account of the failure of transnational human rights activists to persuade governments to rebuff the intellectual property protections inserted in the Central American Free Trade Agreement."

—Nuria Homedes, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Fair access to medicines is an important human rights issue that is challenged by the intellectual property rights requirements of international trade agreements. Godoy uses in-depth interviews in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Guatemala to examine this issue in the context of the Central American Free Trade Agreement . . . [Of Medicines and Markets] represents an interesting inquiry into how rights are framed, transmitted, and interpreted . . . Recommended."

—A. G. Reiter, CHOICE

"Of Medicines and Markets is an engaging and persuasive study of the intersection of intellectual property and human rights in Central America that conveys cogent doubts about the capacity of transnational 'access to medicine' movements to serve as an effective counterweight to global trade regimes. Godoy admirably dissects the forces which have conspired to depoliticize both resistance to intellectual property expansion and the human rights rhetoric in which this is voiced. The book delivers insights that should transform advocacy and scholarship; it should be widely read and acclaimed."

—Rosemary J. Coombe, York University

"[Godoy] provides an excellent analysis of free trade and human rights as parallel global paradigms....While targeting an audience of human rights and health advocates, this well-organized book is suitable for courses on political and legal anthropology, human rights, globalization, and social movements. Sophisticated theoretical discussion makes this book most appropriate for graduate level seminars or advanced undergraduate courses, and ideally readers should have some background knowledge about Latin America."

—Thomas W. Pearson, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review