Much has been discussed and debated over the gene patent rush. Many bio-companies and organizations have rushed to claim ownership rights on DNA while the average individual has argued that genetic coding is simply private property. The underlying issue is, not the corporate patents themselves, but whether such material should be “owned” in the first place.
“Gene patents prevent anyone other than the holder from conducting research on that particular gene,” reports Censorship News (Summer 2009)
This not only creates a biological monopoly, but it also means that bio-companies and organizations would have a monopoly on testing for the existence of such genes as well as charging up to $3,000 for that service.
Bio-companies and organizations argue that without intellectual property rights, there would be no (financial) “incentive” to validate genetic tests for diseases. However, both the bio-companies as well as their opponents fail to admit that genetic diagnosing of diseases is still in its infancy and has yet to graduate to a mature technology.
Currently there are patents on 20% of human genes. These biomarkers range from Alzheimer’s to asthma.
An interesting and certainly more leveled approach to DNA testing was proposed in Technology Review (May 2009) suggesting that a government-run entity lease the testing rights of these genes to organizations that would be willing to do the research. This plan would, in essence, eliminate privately patented genes, and more importantly, encourage and stimulate new research.
Urge your elected officials to support legislation which would create, maintain and perpetuate a government-run entity which would monitor and lease testing rights to bio-companies and organizations willing to do research with human DNA. By doing so, you will help to protect the ownership rights of , in part, YOUR own DNA.