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The human genome should be patented

A large part of the human genome is owned by universities, private companies and governments. When scientists discover a gene, which human characteristic it controls, how it is activated and deactivated; they have to right to patent the gene. The ethics of gene patenting are questionable for several reasons including, a) The price of certain cells such as cancer-fighting cytokines(priced at 3 billion dollars) is just too high and it is not patients from whom the cells are extracted from who profit from the sales of these cells but doctors. b) Selling genes is like selling organs or selling people it’s unethical. No one should have the legal right to extract cells from anyone’s body on the pretext that those cells are owned by UCLA. c) There is little transparency in the field of genetics, doctors kill off numerous patients in gene extraction, testing and other research. There are no consequences faced by those in the medical profession for anything that goes wrong in experimental genetic trial. d) Genes are discovered not invented.

All the Yes points:

  1. When entities patent genes they open doors to research that saves lives
  2. Transgenic animals are a medium through which human lives can be bettered
  3. Genetic modification is inevitable and can only be beneficial in good hands

All the No points:

  1. Discovery vs invention
  2. Cruelty to animals 90% death rate cloning project
  3. Unethical equivocal to patenting the sun

When entities patent genes they open doors to research that saves lives

Yes because…

Genes should be patented because while they are studied only after they have been acquired. And they cannot be acquired without ownership. When genes are owned their benefits, characteristics, triggers et cetera can be exploited for the benefit of mankind. [[http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/margawati.html]]

“Research scientists who work in public institutions often are troubled by the concept of intellectual property because their norms tell them that science will advance more rapidly if researchers enjoy free access to knowledge. By contrast, the law of intellectual property rests on an assumption that, without exclusive rights, no one will be willing to invest in research and development (R&D).

Patenting provides a strategy for protecting inventions without secrecy. A patent grants the right to exclude others from making, using, and selling the invention for a limited term, 20 years from application filing date in most of the world. To get a patent, an inventor must disclose the invention fully so as to enable others to make and use it. Within the realm of industrial research, the patent system promotes more disclosure than would occur if secrecy were the only means of excluding competitors. This is less clear in the case of public-sector research, which typically is published with or without patent protection.” – [[http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/patents.shtml]]

On the contrary, monetary/reward is an incentive for research and innovation, as is copyright protection, once a gene discovery has been provisionally patented, the institute to patent it can freely study it hiring the best professionally and selling/licensing to other able research facilities at a price. Putting a price tag on a discovery therefore means reason to make the discovery public and to sell it to those who can use it for the good of the human race.

No because…

Michael Goldman, a patent attorney with the firm Nixon, Hargrave, in Rochester, N.Y.
The purpose of a patent is to allow an inventor time to develop a salable product. During the 20 years of patent protection, another party can use the invention to develop a product only with a licensing agreement. (However, basic researchers can use it freely.) This period of exclusivity fosters commercial development of the invention by discouraging competition. “The claims section, at the back of the patent application, defines what the patent rights are. The object of a patent is to prevent others from making, using, and selling what’s covered,” therefore patenting a gene inhibits and controls research on it. Research after patenting is restricted, entitled and limited to whichever entity discovered it and to entities which pay royalties to this entity. Either way when a gene is patented by a biotech , it is that biotech that profiteers immensely for simply discovering it without making any innovation whatsoever.

Transgenic animals are a medium through which human lives can be bettered

Yes because…

Farmers have used selective breeding from time immemorial to produce animals that produce more milk or better meat for example. Genetic engineering and molecular biology offers the farmer an easy way to increase yields and animal produce quality.
Transgenic cows produce more milk or milk with less lactose or cholesterol12, certain transgenic pigs and cattle have more meat on them and there are transgenic sheep that grow more wool than their unaltered counterparts. Alternatively farmers use growth hormones to accelerate animal development but this technique leaves hormonal residue in the animal product.

“Transplant organs may soon come from transgenic animals.
a) Xeno-transplantation
Patients die every year for lack of a replacement heart, liver, or kidney. For example, about 5,000 organs are needed each year in the United Kingdom alone.25 Transgenic pigs may provide the transplant organs needed to alleviate the shortfall.9 Currently, Xenotransplantation is hampered by a pig protein that can cause donor rejection but research is underway to remove the pig protein and replace it with a human protein.25
Milk-producing transgenic animals are especially useful for medicines.
b) nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals
Products such as insulin, growth hormone, and blood anti-clotting factors may soon be or have already been obtained from the milk of transgenic cows, sheep, or goats.3,12,23 Research is also underway to manufacture milk through transgenesis for treatment of debilitating diseases such as phenylketonuria (PKU), hereditary emphysema, and cystic fibrosis.3,13,23,25

In 1997, the first transgenic cow, Rosie, produced human protein-enriched milk at 2.4 grams per litre. This transgenic milk is a more nutritionally balanced product than natural bovine milk and could be given to babies or the elderly with special nutritional or digestive needs.4,21,23 Rosie’s milk contains the human gene alpha-lactalbumin.

A transgenic cow exists that produces a substance to help human red cells grow.
c) human gene therapy
Human gene therapy involves adding a normal copy of a gene (transgene) to the genome of a person carrying defective copies of the gene. The potential for treatments for the 5,000 named genetic diseases is huge and transgenic animals could play a role. For example, the A. I. Virtanen Institute in Finland produced a calf with a gene that makes the substance that promotes the growth of red cells in humans.”- [[http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/margawati.html]]

No because…

Too risky, and at what cost?

It’s not animals alone that are at stake but human beings as well. Genetically modified animals/animal-products created for the benefit of human beings can prove detrimental for human health. Take the insulin milk mentioned on the left, while it maybe be wonderful for diabetes’ patients it can cause hypoglycemia , erratic blood glucose levels and therefore a number of related diseases in normal people. And this is assuming experiments such as these do “not” go wrong, which is very unlikely.

“Increased animal suffering

Genetically modified animals are prone to increased levels of suffering. Previous experiments show GM calves, for example, are more likely to be born with serious deformities. GM cows can develop gangrenous udders and mastitis and are highly susceptible to respiratory and septic conditions.
AgResearch seeks to use recipient animals as surrogate mothers to carry GM embryos. Recipient animals are often aborted at around 60 days and the foetus cells harvested to produce new embryos.
Harm to our environment

AgResearch plans to have research or testing facilities around New Zealand, including in the Waikato, Canterbury and Southland regions. The risk of a breach in biosecurity or site contamination can never be eliminated and would jeopardise New Zealand’s reputation for clean, safe, natural food. Animal waste from GM animals will be used as compost or sprayed onto fields without adequate monitoring of the environmental effects.

Unethical conduct
AgResearch will genetically engineer animals with human genes. They will deliberately create sick animals as ‘models’ of human disease despite the Bioethics Council calling for an ethical review of such practices.

Risk of disease
New Zealand animals are currently free of many highly contagious diseases such as Mad Cow Disease (BSE) and Scrapie, making New Zealand an attractive testing ground for overseas biotech investors. Genetic modification of animals risks creating new diseases in animals or in people consuming milk and other products made from the animals”

Genetic modification is inevitable and can only be beneficial in good hands

Yes because…

If genes were not patented all biotechnological research groups would have a free hand to manipulate genes as they wished. When genes are patented by responsible scientists who have discovered their existence, it is easier to check on their use and misuse, as it is the owners of these genes that are responsible for the effects of these where-ever they are used. Just as a company is liable when there are toxic spills, the owner of a gene is liable if the gene does not act as promised. If there is no patent on the gene, then there is no liability and therefore no controls on its use.

AG research is one group that must responsibly administer genetic research or modification.

“Genetic modification without cloning?

Although cloning trials have been abandoned, AgResearch would continue to develop transgenic cattle, sheep and goats. Suttie said new technology using embryonic stem cells to create transgenic animals was unlikely to cause the same death rates as cloning.

However, the research has only begun four months ago. In 2010, two out of 12 kids delivered at term in a trial to develop transgenic goats died at birth. One suffered from chronic arthritis in its front legs. Four other animals died or had to be euthanized in another trial to produce transgenic cattle.
Suttie said AgResearch’s work would benefit New Zealand. The trials include creating animals that will produce proteins with pharmaceutical benefits. One goal was to produce a drug like Herceptin more cost-effectively and make it readily available. Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody drug for treating certain breast cancers costing $100 000 a year, but is controversially associated with a high risk of death from heart disease [5].

The announcement to end cloning from AgResearch lacks credibility in view of its continuation with developing transgenic animals. All the signs are that GM and cloning go together, given that the original motivation for NT was to create ‘elite herds’ of GM animals to produce drugs in their milk [2]. It is also why NT cloning is continuing in the US.” [[http://www.i-sis.org.uk/death_rates_end_cloning.php]]

No because…

“However, considerable hope has been pinned on a new method of creating pluripotent stem cells that are capable of producing all the cells of the embryo except for the extraembryonic tissues.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) are obtained after somatic cells are transduced (infected) with a vector expression a set of special transcription factors. Such iPS cells are practically indistinguishable from embryonic stem (ES) cells in morphology, gene expression and pluripotency. The researcher considered such cells “the most promising candidates for future somatic NT experiments,” and stressed “the importance of deriving these cells in livestock species.”
It is not clear whether the new experiments mentioned by the Dominion Post [1] on creating transgenic animals were done with iPS cells. If so, the high rates of death and abnormalities have hardly diminished.

It is time to end all attempts to create GM animals or to clone animals by nuclear transplant. It is unacceptable in terms of animal suffering and the serious hazards to health as [2].”[[http://www.i-sis.org.uk/death_rates_end_cloning.php]]

In this case the tool itself is noxious, it doesn’t matter who is using it or whether it’s in good hands so to speak. If GM is inevitable so is animal testing, human testing and the adverse consequences of testing living things. There is no safe method to perform genetic tests and fatalities are common, the ‘imagined’ boon of genetic modification is not justification for it’s continued usage.

Discovery vs invention

No because…

“A second objection to patenting genes is that DNA is a product of nature, not human ingenuity. The Council for Responsible Genetics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based organization of scientists, public health advocates, and consumers, takes this view. They have an online petition that states: “The plants, animals, and microorganisms comprising life on Earth are part of the natural world into which we are all born. The conversion of these species, their molecules, or parts into corporate property through patent monopolies is counter to the interests of the peoples of this country and of the world. No individual, institution, or corporation … should be able to hold patents on organs, cells, genes, or proteins, whether naturally occurring, genetically altered, or otherwise modified.”” -[[http://www.columbia.edu/cu/21stC/issue-3.1/lewis.html]] Genes are not invented but found, patenting a discovery is the legal equivalent to ‘finders keepers, losers weepers’ finding something is not the same as having the right to exploit it and sell it freely.

Point of information: Actually the answer the question is “No you cannot”, even when land ownership is disputed. The story of the man who inadvertently caused the California gold rush exemplifies this point: ” Sutter attempted to keep the discovery a secret and ordered his men not to breathe a word of it until he could obtain official title to the mineral rights in Coloma. This land belonged to the Culluma Indians and had not been included in the 48,000-acre grant he received from Mexican Governor Alvarado a decade earlier. But who was going to complain if he used it for his mill? After all, the entire California territory was in the process of being ceded to the United States, so ownership was, well, unsettled at best.

Unfortunately for Sutter, he was not able to keep the hoards of miners off the land around the mill, nor did he become its lawful owner, and the discovery of gold turned out to be his ruin. His valley settlement was all but deserted with the onslaught of the Gold Rush, except for squatters on his land. There was no one left to tend the Fort’s businesses, livestock, or crops. The last years of Sutter’s life were spent at the nation’s capitol trying in vain to convince Congress to compensate him for his losses brought on by the California Gold Rush. He died a poor man in Pennsylvania.”-[[http://www.comspark.com/chronicles/golddisc.htm]]

Firstly a patient (the owner of the land being dug up for genes) should give consent before having genes extracted from his/her body. (The current U.S legislation does not require this)
Secondly the patient should be informed of the monies to be obtained for the sale, study and development of what is extracted from his/her body.
Patenting genes removes a patient’s right to know, to not be owned in part or whole and the right to object to being exploited.

Yes because…

Suppose I discover a goldmine, can I mine it? can I sell it for monetary profit? Can I exploit it for monetary profit? Yes.

Harold Edgar, professor of law at Columbia University

“When you isolate something as it appears in its natural state you change it, even if the only change is the isolation. You have left behind the natural product and created something artificial. No isolated gene sequence occurs in nature,”

Once a gene is removed from a person, it is no longer part of that person, if blodd samples are taken from a person and genes are extracted from those blood samples, who is that person to object? The gene holds zero monetary value to the person it is taken from since that person has not patented the gene, and cannot sell or buy it to invent a profitable panacea. Thus, the only grounds on which someone reject the taking of his/her genes is to stall scientific progress, which is ignoble indeed.

Cruelty to animals 90% death rate cloning project

No because…

“In 2003, Ian Wilmut, who pioneered the technology abandoned it for cloning animals [3] (Death Sentence on Cloning, SiS 19), stating that he would use NT only for creating human cells for tissue repair and for studying human diseases. However, the discovery that ordinary human cells could be induced to become stem cells had made NT completely redundant [4].

In NT cloning of normal non-GM animals, at most 10 per cent of cloned embryos selected for implantation survive the trials [1]. (In terms of total embryos made by NT, it would be about 1 percent.) The main problems were spontaneous abortions and hydrops, where the surrogate mother’s uterus fills up with water, and the animal has to be put down”


Yes because…

Cloning is only one form of genetic research and is as such banned in the most of the world since the discovery that stem cells can be taken from human beings.

“Stem cells exist beyond the embryo, in both foetal and adult tissues, though their number and potency diminish with age. Foetal tissues are therefore a richer source of qualitatively better stem cells than adult tissue. But they’re less multipotent than ES cells. One significant advantage foetal cells do have over ES cells is that their use provokes less ethical debate since they can be isolated from foetuses whose development has been aborted for medical reasons, or indeed by miscarriage.
Stem cells from human foetal brain have been used to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease and in some cases have conferred sustained clinical improvement.”

The fact that cloning had disastrous consequences does not justify giving up on genetic research altogether. Let us not ignore the fact that these animals suffer for the sake of bettering human lives and also that most of the world kills then eats sheep, cattle and the other animals being subjected to these trials. [[http://epigenome.eu/en/2,8,19]]

Unethical equivocal to patenting the sun

No because…

A part of a human being can not and should not be patented. Patenting discoveries as opposed to inventions is problematic and detrimental to the human race because while invention is usually done by a few people, anyone can ‘discover’ or find things. And gene patenting is not simply a matter of finding a gene sequence never seen before but of barring anyone else from making positive use of that discovery. The right to invent anything around that genetic sequence is thus harnessed. This unethical on the grounds that people have certain rights over their bodies and what is inside our bodies. We have the right to tattoo, cut or paint ourselves. We have the right to eat junk food or poison or anything of the like. We have the right to ‘our’ cells, hormones and genes. For scientists to take our genes simply because they saw them under a mechanical probe is equivocal to a midwife claiming ownership of a baby’s back because s/he saw it first. Or Galileo patenting the sun for he saw more of it through his telescope than anyone else. [[http://www.lucidcafe.com/library/96feb/galileo.html]]

“”The ACLU and the patent foundation say Myriad’s refusal to license the patents broadly has meant that women who fear they may be at risk of breast or ovarian cancer are prevented from having anyone but Myriad look at the genes in question.

During a lengthy hearing in a packed courtroom, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet was asked by lawyers for the plaintiffs to strike down the validity of the patents, while a lawyer for the defendants called for the lawsuit to be tossed toss out. The judge did not immediately rule. Christopher Hansen, an ACLU lawyer, told Sweet that researchers deserved praise but not patents for winning the race to isolate an important part of the body. He said important medical research was being hampered because the patents for “BRCA1” and “BRCA2” genes prohibit the study of the genes by others.
“New forms and testing and new ways of using the gene have been inhibited,” Hansen said. “That’s not good for womens’ health.”

Hansen argued that the patents were awarded for the discovery of an “ancient secret of nature.” He added: “A patent is not a reward for effort.””

Yes because…

[[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/03/gene-patent-trial-begins-_n_447055.html]] The other lawyer in this article had better points. “Attorney Brian Poissant said Myriad Genetics, based in Salt Lake City, and the University of Utah Research Foundation have a right to the patents, especially since they pertain to the process that was developed to isolate chemical composition.

He said to disallow the patents would wreck the foundation of the entire biotechnology industry. Court precedent, he added, is on their side.

“But the information is not new?” the judge asked at one point.

Poissant responded that every invention in the history of man involves something to do with nature.
Poissant said a ruling against the company could lead to the invalidity of thousands of gene patents.
“This would unravel the foundation of the entire biotechnology industry,” he said.
U.S. government attorneys have defended the patents, saying the groups do not have the right to even challenge them.”

In conclusion, gene patents are a legal fact. Biotechnology is more of a boon than a bane and to demolish the entire industry over questionable concerns. (If people are willing to donate blood, why not genes, permission to take blood is equivalent to getting permission to take all the constituents of that that blood sample including genes. While genes maybe worth a lot of money to scientists they are worthless to the layman in him/her.)

As for patenting the sun is concerned, large parts of the moon (and several planets that may be colonized by the human race eventually) are already owned. If the sun were seen as potentially inhabitable, it too would be owned by celebrities and scientists alike. [[http://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110304184143AABgSNA]]

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