Sunday, June 16, 2013
The Supreme Court Speaks Against Gene Patenting
From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: I may be mistaken, but it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court has finally looked at some precedents and laws other than the ones Monsanto has so carefully placed in their venue. Monsanto, you might remember, has been paving the way to complete ownership of all plant genes on the planet. They’ve been stocking their vaults with unusual beans, grains, vegetables of all kinds, and working through the gene pools, patenting as fast as they can. At the same time, they’ve been working up case law that proves they have the right to claim patents on these genes and that farmers who grow the plants on their own are breaking the laws. But last Thursday the Supreme Court unanimously decided that human genes cannot be patented! This is huge! For starters, it means you, dear reader, have some rights to your own body and its miracles. If you are stricken with some disease and your body figures out how to fight it, you have the right to claim that cure even if some college researcher captures a little of your dna, isolates it and develops a vaccine that imitates what your body did. We have to hope that this precedent leads to some more decisions that reverse the outrages of the past. Gene descriptions have become easy to create, thanks to new gene-reading machines. But gene descriptions are not the same as gene inventions and it’s time the Supreme Court and our lawmakers accepted that fact. As Judge Clarence Thomas wrote, “separating a gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.” And the other justices, bless them, agreed!