Who owns your genes?

Photo by jurvetson
Great blog post with background on this week’s decision by a federal judge upholding a lawsuit that challenges the granting of patents for human genes. Read the article here.

The danger of letting corporations patent human genes is that they can use the monopoly created by patents to deny access to diagnostic and therapeutic treatments to those who can’t pay a premium. Patents on human genes also choke off a patient’s ability to get a second opinion (before, say, removing ovaries or a prostate) and close off scientific research by other corporations or academic institutions.

The decision — which is sure to be appealed — has raised dire warnings from some corners of the pharmaceutical and venture capitalist sectors, as well as from the patent bar. They argue that patents encourage research and innovation by making it profitable for corporations to engage in the financially risky business of developing new diagnostic tools and therapies, and warn that the Court’s decision will thus hinder innovation.

But this case is different. It’s not about denying corporations the right to patent specific tests, methods, or drugs. These are inventions that deserve and will continue to receive patent protection. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to award patents in order to promote the “progress of science and the useful arts, by securing, for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their writings and discoveries.”

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Monsanto’s Business Model: Ethically Less Than the Sum of its Parts


From a great blog that covers ethical issues in the biotechnology industry.  Read the blog article here.

Monsanto is widely considered to be Public Enemy #1 by critics of the biotech industry. But most who’ve heard complaints about Monsanto don’t know much more than what’s contained in the single-sentence slogans.

But if you’re going to form an opinion, it’s good to know a little more. As a start, here’s a good story by Christopher Leonard, writing for the Associated Press (and coming to you via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Monsanto seed biz role revealed. I strongly recommend the whole article. But here’s a taste:

“Confidential contracts detailing Monsanto Co.’s business practices reveal how the world’s biggest seed developer is squeezing competitors, controlling smaller seed companies and protecting its dominance over the multibillion-dollar market for genetically altered crops, an Associated Press investigation has found.

With Monsanto’s patented genes being inserted into roughly 95 percent of all soybeans and 80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S., the company also is using its wide reach to control the ability of new biotech firms to get wide distribution for their products, according to a review of several Monsanto licensing agreements and dozens of interviews with seed industry participants, agriculture and legal experts….”

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