Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Federal Government Files Against Gene Patents

The law that allows biotechnology and other medical companies to patent organic genes is in jeopardy after the federal government recently filed a case to reverse the decades –old Patent & Trademark policy. The federal government explained that it views these genes to be part of nature and therefore belong to the public.

The federal government is only reversing patents genes that have not been altered by a human. Genes found in genetically modified crops and gene therapies are chemically changed to create these products. However, the major point of contention in this discussion is whether or not genes naturally found in the body and isolated are truly natural.

Those who oppose patents claim that:

* Human genes that are not specifically altered are natural and belong to the human race.
* Keeping genetic information inaccessible by applying patents to genes actually stunts medical development

Those in favor of patents claim:

* The chemicals isolated in the genes are not the same as in the body which makes them unnatural.
* Many biotechnology companies point out that the patents help create new tests, drugs and personalized treatments.

Already, some courts have sided against the legitimacy of patents on isolated genes from the body. Since a precedence has already been started favoring the argument that isolated genes are natural and contain important information for the public, the federal government may have a good chance to win such a case. If isolated gene patents were to be revoked, the medical community would have access to a mountain of new information but whether or not that will aid medical development is yet to be seen.

For more information about the developments and details of the gene patent discussion, take a look at the New York Times article: US says genes should not be eligible for patents.

Elizabeth Huggins
Graduate Student

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