General Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Do you support the fact that the US patent office issues patents on human DNA?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (9169points) May 26th, 2009

On May 12, 2009, the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law (PUBPAT), filed a lawsuit charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer are unconstitutional and invalid. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four scientific organizations representing more than 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals, as well as individual researchers, breast cancer and women’s health groups, genetic counselors and individual women. Individuals with certain mutations along these two genes, known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, are at a significantly higher risk for developing hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has granted thousands of patents on human genes – in fact, about 20 percent of our genes are patented. A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene. As a result, scientific research and genetic testing has been delayed, limited or even shut down due to concerns about gene patents.

As a result of the PTO granting patents on the BRCA genes to Myriad Genetics, Myriad’s lab is the only place in the country where diagnostic testing can be performed. Because only Myriad can test for the BRCA gene mutations, others are prevented from testing these genes or developing alternative tests. Myriad’s monopoly on the BRCA genes makes it impossible for women to access other tests or get a second opinion about their results, and allows Myriad to charge a high rate for their tests – over $3,000, which is too expensive for some women to afford.

The lawsuit, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. United States Patent and Trademark Office, et al., was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan against the PTO, Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation, which hold the patents on the BRCA genes.

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19 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

No, I think is’t a horrendous misuse of the patent process. I am thinking of patenting my own body, just in case.

oratio's avatar

Frankly, that scares the shit out of me. Absolutely not. Monsanto and the like, can’t just be let free in a DNA racket. This is a concern about all genome of all life. How can we just let companies own a gene. This is – believe it or not – closely connected to copyright of music and movies. We need a serious public debate about this.

Dog's avatar

IF the patented company is ACTIVELY researching the gene a short term patent should be allowed.

These companies invest a lot of time and expense to isolate the gene. They should be allowed a given period of time where they can research without encroachment.

Again I stipulate that it should be for a limited time and only while they are actively doing research.

oratio's avatar

@Dog I have sympathies with the concept of the market, with investments and the return of it. What we are talking about is the very blueprints of what we are. Companies own the rights to my genes. The genome would still be researched even without granted patents of DNA, and spin off research and possible lucrative therapies and medicines would still come out of it.

I agree with you though, that if such a thing should be granted, that there must be a reasonable time limit with no patent renewal, ever.

The genomes, should be public domain in my opinion.

A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene.

This, is a problem.

Zaku's avatar

No, and nonhuman DNA shouldn’t be patentable or ownable either. It’s pretty obviously evil, to me. Patently evil…

ragingloli's avatar

i can picture the day where companies sue me for compensation because of having offspring that has genes in its DNA that they have pantented.

bea2345's avatar

I thought that patents were supposed to protect a process or a creation, e.g. a new method of extracting electrolytes from barley. This is an abuse of the patent system. So what if X discovers a new gene? it is new only in the sense that we did not know of it before. Now, if he created a new one, made it in the laboratory, he could patent that. They will be telling me next that I don’t own my body.

Myndecho's avatar

I was only thinking a few days ago would this be possible.

@Ragingloli don’t worry you are not having offspring soon :P

SquirrelEStuff's avatar


That sounds like what Monsanto does with it’s patented genetically modified seeds. Monsanto has sued several farmers for patent violation because the wind would blow pollen from Monsanto owned farms and cross-pollinate with other farmer’s plants, causing the farmer’s plants to contain patented genes by Monsanto, allowing Monsanto to sue.

ragingloli's avatar

@Myndecho just wait until I impregnate you, seanny boy.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I agree with the general consensus. It is scary and it is a misuse of the patent process and I would even suggest a misuse of science. I want as many people studying this stuff as possible.

Are there any benefits for the public when it comes to patenting human genes?

Fyrius's avatar


Reserving exclusive rights to a gene? That’s so wrong in so many ways.
It’s yet another instance of people claiming ownership to natural phenomena that cannot reasonably be said to belong to anyone. As if declaring the moon American property didn’t take our presumptuous territorial urges to satisfactorily ridiculous lengths yet.

These guys come to mind.

mattbrowne's avatar

Totally against it. All countries in the world should simply ignore it. Americans should elect politicians who will end this nonsense. Nature is nature.

If this doesn’t work in all fairness I should point out that Italy holds a patent for the discovery of America. All US citizens in favor of human DNA patents should be forced to pay royalties to Italy.

Come to think of it, all air passengers wishing to land at their destination should pay royalties to the United Kingdom and Germany for using gravity which was patented by Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Otherwise they can still choose to remain in a holding pattern.

bea2345's avatar

Can you imagine what music could be like if some early composer owned the patent for the perfect cadence?

ragingloli's avatar

we would just have pop music à la britney spears. it would suck if we only had todays mainstream crap.

bea2345's avatar

I knew there was a reason I do not listen to Britney Spears. There needs to be some controls on the patent office. There is the risk of inhibiting independent research – as in the gene examples.

Darbio16's avatar

Monsanto owns us all. Look for Codex Alimentarius end of 2009.

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