Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Who owns human DNA?

Asked by wundayatta (58357 points ) September 4th, 2009

Scientists have been patenting various human gene sequences for perhaps a decade or more, now. It used to cause a furor, but you hardly ever hear about it any more. There are a number of arguments for and against patenting genes, as described in this article.

One of my objections is not included amongst the arguments in that article. I think that our genes are part of us, so someone owning a human gene is like owning a human being—tantamount to slavery. We no longer have sovereignty over our own bodies.

One argument is that allowing scientists (or corporations) to patent genes encourages them to conduct research. Only a patent protects their knowledge from being used for free by others, and it is the only way they can make money that justifies the cost of the research. (This could lead to a discussion of the ethics of patents in general).

So who owns your DNA? What does ownership mean in this context? What happens when the patents run out? Can we sell our DNA to corporations?

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18 Answers

robmandu's avatar

In Michael Crichton’s novel Next, the author explores this concept with his usual ham-handedness.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

I do, I’ts MINE

It should be considered my intellectual property.

GA @ragingloli

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Scientists don’t own all of anyone’s DNA so it’s not slavery or kidnapping anymore than your doctor taking a blood sample would be.

DylanMueller's avatar

I do, hence them having to obtain me and run tests on me, to make clones of me.

seVen's avatar

God owns everything.

ragingloli's avatar

@Noel_S_Leitmotiv
you don’t understand
I own all DNA!
Mine, yours, EVERYONE’S

AstroChuck's avatar

@seVen- God doesn’t own me. My wife does.

cwilbur's avatar

Copyright exists when a work is put into tangible form, right?

Then I’d say the rights to my DNA belong to my parents.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

@ragingloli: you don’t Baby, but you get points for trying.

benjaminlevi's avatar

As long as I can keep my RNA…

YARNLADY's avatar

Apparently anyone who decides to file a formal claim to it. I am thinking of having my own DNA patented, so no one else can beat me to it.

Darwin's avatar

If you believe, then God would be the owner, but he’ll never show up in court.

It is a bit like asking who owns the sunlight. However, the government apparently owns the rain.

mattbrowne's avatar

People can own DNA if they are willing to pay royalties for using gravity. The descendants of Newton and Einstein would become very rich.

JLeslie's avatar

So, it is not owning a particular persons DNA, it is owning a certain sequence that could be found in any of us, is that right? Like the sequence for blue eyes or the sequence for a certain disease, am I understanding correctly?

Bluefreedom's avatar

I own my own DNA and until someone can conclusively prove to me otherwise how it isn’t inherently mine, and I don’t see that happening – ever, I will staunchly stand behind my feelings on this.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Bluefreedom I hope it never comes up. According to what I read, some people are actually claiming ownership of tissues and DNA, without the consent of the donor.

Bluefreedom's avatar

@YARNLADY. Not a very pleasant thought no matter how you look at it.

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