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Hive Mind
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
 

20 percent of human genes have been patented


Think you own what's in your cells? Think again:
A new study shows that 20 percent of human genes have been patented in the United States, primarily by private firms and universities.

The study, which is reported this week in the journal Science, is the first time that a detailed map has been created to match patents to specific physical locations on the human genome.

Researchers can patent genes because they are potentially valuable research tools, useful in diagnostic tests or to discover and produce new drugs.

"It might come as a surprise to many people that in the U.S. patent system human DNA is treated like other natural chemical products," said Fiona Murray, a business and science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and a co-author of the study.

"An isolated DNA sequence can be patented in the same manner that a new medicine, purified from a plant, could be patented if an inventor identifies a [new] application."

Meanwhile, the anti-biotech crowd blathers on and on about how it's not "safe" to eat biotech foods. Now, as someone who's had a fair bit of training in biology, I can assure you that for all practical purposes, GMO-containing foods are just as safe to eat as any other type of food. But that's not the real point. In fact, it's that very type of technophobic discourse that obscures the real issues, such as the fact that access to this technology is denied to the general public. Furthermore, this denial of access is maintained through widespread scientific illiteracy, the spreading of corporate misinformation, and perhaps most crucially, the existence of an archaic and draconian system of intellectual property laws. Thus, I'd like to humbly make the tactical suggestion that anyone concerned about biotechnology should make dismantling the institution of intellectual property as we know it a primary focus of their efforts.

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Open Source, D.I.Y. Media/Tech:

DNAHack
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