My genome: sold to the highest bidder

Gene patenting is a real and scary thing. From a scientific perspective, not only is it an absolute pain in the neck (stacks of paperwork and a major expense in the budget of any lab), but it effectively limits the possibilities of research. I fully understand the idea of protecting discoveries and making sure that each scientist is given proper credit for his findings, but I find it absolutely ridiculous that someone can own a part of MY genome. Looking at the issue from an extremist point of view, the patenting of human genes is simply exploiting humankind. If a gene is patented, then every time the sequence is used a royalty must be paid to the “owner” of that gene. Am I not the rightful owner of my own DNA? When I decide to have children, do I have to pay for rights to my genes before I can reproduce them?

The term “patent” implies invention and I think that a claim to have invented the sequence of a human gene is a bit far-fetched. Perhaps it would be a better idea to patent the technique for determining the sequence of a gene instead of the sequence itself.

The idea of profiting off of a sequence of strategically placed A, C, T, and G’s not only seems rather absurd but it also goes against the whole idea of what it means to be a scientist – which is gathering knowledge and sharing it with the rest of the community. When watching the NOVA special, I can feel passion oozing off Eric Landers when he talks about the research he’s doing – it’s very clear that he loves his job and he wants the rest of the world to benefit from the work that he is doing…for free. Craig Venter on the other hand, though I can’t deny his brilliance, puts off the air of a pompous snob (which is his general reputation in the scientific community) whose main goal is to make money with scientific advancement being the added bonus. Science is about discovery…not just running a business.

Emily B.

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~ by bainej on January 29, 2010.

One Response to “My genome: sold to the highest bidder”

  1. I agree gene patenting is scary. It definitely limits one’s ability to research certain genes without dealing with a lot of red tape. By your extreme example of paying to reproduce your genes, you illustrate the whole process of gene patenting is a slippery slope.

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