The necessity of benefit sharing may be questioned when research activities are funded by international sources within a developing country. Benefit sharing is a topic which remains uncertain in the context of genetic research, particularly with regard to how and with whom benefits should be shared. A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is one way (and in some instances the only way) in which the transfer of human biological materials is regulated. With biobank research increasing and the historical exploitation of research participants in Africa a reality, it is essential that the transfer of human tissues across national boundaries is regulated with specific regard to the sharing of benefits and the respect and protection of traditional values. This paper will debate the requirement of benefit sharing when research is undertaken; discuss its meaning in the context of genetic research; and outline some South African and international perspectives on the sharing of benefits. While this paper emphasises benefit sharing in the context of genetic research, the principles apply to all human participant research.
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