The Ragged-Trousered Philosopher


History of Digital Telepathy

with God


The Eagle Has Landed

All's Well That Ends Well


On Gene Patenting

This short article was submitted to various apparently appropriate newsgroups in early 1995 with absolutely no response whatsoever. Now, in 1997, it seems that people are finally waking up to what's going on. Lets hope so!
The article begins...

Why isn't anyone on the net debating the obscenity of Gene Patenting? Or if they are, where's the thread? Or did you just not hear about it yet?

This really is the prime example of how divorced science has become from its raison d'etre - the search for truth rather than profit. An example of whats winding me up - and hopefully you too is the recently successful search for the gene which causes Breast Cancer in 5% of sufferers after a multinational collaborative effort lasting several years. Eventually, and inevitably, one lucky or extra diligent lab found it first - and has patented it! NOT the treatment, or even the kit for identifying carriers. No. They have actually patented the gene itself.

The attempt to patent genes and gene fragments is as ludicrous as if Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing had attempted to patent the Summit of Mount Everest simply because they were the first humans to stand on it. But its much more serious than that, because, in short, noone would suffer through not being allowed to stand atop Mount Everest without paying for the privilege. What the Americans have started is an obscene race to try to patent KNOWLEDGE itself (as opposed to the traditional patenting of Invention - the application of knowledge). One could make a case against the principle of patenting itself. But, in a Capitalist society, one can at least accept the commercial logic that an investor needs reward for the resources that fuel new commercially viable products. One can even defend, therefore, the patenting of the life saving drugs which will inevitably arise from the ongoing work to decode the human genome (though, in my view, the commercial exploitation of a product whose sole purpose is to end disease or save life is itself as obscene as making people pay for the water they drink or the air they breathe - the implication being that if you don't or can't pay, you die. If money is required as an incentive for such research it should be provided by society at large through the tax system - not from the individual contributions of those fortunate or desperate enough to be able to pay. Enough of the soap box...)

Those research projects whose aim is to create a new genetic structure, be it a design for a sterile mosquito, bigger more resilient corn or rabbit-killing viruses are in the same category as those who create new drugs or new machines. They are genuinely inventing something and thus their efforts fall four square into the traditional patenting arena. The others are merely discovering the structure of something which already exists. To patent such a discovery may well profit that individual or the company for whom s/he works but it cannot possibly profit the human race.

Take another example, the case of John Moore, who was given 5 years to live because his spleen was 'exploding'. His doctor, (Goldie) removed the spleen and had samples analysed. He found, to his amazement, that John's spleen was, amongst other things, producing vast amounts of natural cancer fighting agents. This turned out to be, as I understand it, due to a rare genetic condition (caught this on the tale end of a news item so didn't hear full details). The doctor has patented the gene which belongs to John Moore and now stands to make millions! Mr Moore, understandably, took umbrage at this violation and challenged it in the Courts AND LOST! The American courts apparently don't accept that you own bits of your own body that have been removed for one reason or another.

Now don't get me wrong. If the doctor had invented a new technique in order to isolate the gene; or a new method of speeding up replication of the useful cells; or had taken the basic gene and modified it in someway to enhance its output; all or any of the above would be 'acceptable' candidates for patenting. But simply to discover, purely by chance, that an existing gene has certain properties is not and can not ever be subject to the censorship and restrictions implied by patent laws. The direct intent and effect (if successful) of patenting knowledge is to prevent others using it (unless they can afford to pay).

The idea of paying a licence fee to use such knowledge would be laughable if today's clowns didn't include mainstream researchers who are deadly serious. Consider the effects on human development if our predecessors had adopted such an intellectually bankrupt posture. Imagine Pythagoras patenting the hypotenuse and its relationship to the other two sides of a right angled triangle. Copernicus or Galileo might have patented the heliocentric structure of the solar system (fascinating legal arguments when we discover another race in another stellar system with similar structure!). Newton could have patented Gravity. Hmmm. Would have earned him a fortune. We'd all have had to pay for that one. Come to think of it, Oxygen. Now there's a money spinner. Priestley's estate would be wealthier than any single Nation State! And what about Rutherford - a commission in every atom! Wow!

Do I make my point? Coming closer to the subject. Imagine what would have happened to genetic research if Crick and Watson had patented the DNA double helix - absolutely no different in principle to what the materialist imbeciles are trying to do today. Would we have had the explosion of research that followed their basic discovery? Would we have ever had the human genome project itself? The answer is a clear NO. Why? Because with the best will in the world, no single scientist, no single company, not even any single Country has the resources, the key to all knowledge, exclusive access to the best brains, or a monopoly of wisdom. To make the best, quickest and most profitable (for humanity) use of knowledge it must always be shared as freely as the Oxygen we breathe. Indeed, knowledge IS the oxygen of the mind.

So how has this appalling state of affairs come about? Simple. The soul of Science has been possessed by the demon of Competition and has all but lost sight of the spirit of Co-operation. I appeal to all you scientists who have not yet fallen prey to this corruption to dedicate yourselves to reversing the trend. Already the damage is spreading, with labs and scientists who had previously co-operated now refusing to do so in case they provide the key to someone elses discovery of what they are both looking for.

The rest of you, don't just sit there. Do something. Write to Congress or Parliament or whatever and demand that legislation be enacted to prevent this abuse of science before the damage is irreversible.

That this should have started in America, of all places, with all its constitutional protection for freedom of information is utterly mindblowing. Any one still not quite seeing the point should try seeing it as though the CIA were commissioning the research and patenting the results for purposes of their own. Would that get you out of your armchair?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed by Harry Stottle (2001-5) under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.  

T H E    B O O K
Why Bother?
So, What is It?
Do We Exist?
Meaning, Truth...
How Did We Get Here?
A Theory of Behaviour
Survival,Ethics & Democracy
Part 1- From Neolithic to Neocon

Part 2-Leadership
Abortion and Human Rights
Crime and Punishment
War-Part 1-Morality
War-Part 2-Reasons To Be Fearful
War - On Drugs
The 'Rule of Law'