Is it ethical? Is it a doomed practice? or Is it inevitable? Your thoughts please.
Lots of information you may not know before contributing. (I bolded the important bits.) --->
I was poking around on the internet and found this group and page entry: "NO PATENTS ON LIFE" WORKING GROUP UPDATE
What first got me thinking about this was a segment in Food, Inc. where the story features some of the controversial practices of a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation called Monsanto; more specifically the issues surrounding their bioengineered, highly resilient (and highly pest-/fungi-resistant), patented soybeans that are outstripping natural varieties of soy and ultimately contaminating neighboring farmer's fields (the few that opted not to purchase their product). They then proceed to sue those farmers for unlawful use of their product, as they have a team of investigators that follow up on farmers using (or not using as it were) their products to be sure that they are not collecting the seeds after harvest, thus ensuring their monopoly on forcing even the contracted farmers into repurchasing their grain each new season indefinitely.Our genes have been evolving for hundreds of millions of years. The basic food crops that sustain us all have been carefully bred for at least ten thousand years by farming communities. Yet individuals, institutions, and corporations have the audacity to claim to have invented these shared biological resources. In the two decades since the US Supreme Court first ruled in Diamond v. Chakrabarty that a genetically engineered bacterium could be patented, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has expanded patent rights to encompass not just microorganisms, but gene sequences, expressed sequence tags (ESTs), proteins, cell lines, genetically modified plants and animals, and even non-genetically modified species.
Meanwhile, similar patents on life are being forced on the rest of the world through the Trade Related Aspects of International Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO). In an attempt to reverse this trend of patenting life, the Council for Responsible Genetics is now working with other groups throughout the United States to draft model legislation that would exclude living organisms and their parts from the patent system. We hope that this model legislation will help build a "No Patents on Life" movement in the United States, which not only supports the growing international movement but also successfully challenges US domestic policy on life patents.
The number of patents on genes, food crops, and other living organisms and their parts is growing. The international anti-poverty organization ActionAid recently documented that there are over nine hundred patents on varieties of the world’s five major staple food crops; six agrochemical companies control most of these patents. Another study, published last year in Science (February 16, 2001, Vol. 291) found that just three biotechnology companies had filed for patents on over 20,000 full-length human gene sequences. Already at least 1,300 patents on full-length human genes have been granted. This expropriation of humanity’s collective heritage into a few private hands is not only unfair; it has potentially devastating consequences. Patent holders gain the right to either charge licensing fees or exclude others from using or benefiting from their patented invention for twenty years. Already the harmful effects of life patents on human health, food security, agriculture, indigenous rights, and global development are apparent.
Another controversy surrounding this company not discussed in the film is their "terminator seed" technology; plants that grow to be sterile guaranteeing the same outcome underlined above without the cost of patent enforcement.
Patenting life is not restricted to plants and seeds. The landmark case that changed things was in 1980, Diamond v. Chakrabarty. It centered around a genetic engineer working for General Electric who had developed a bacterium that broke down crude oil that might be tremendously helpful in cleaning up disastrous oil spills. According to Wiki:
While I understand that these companies require an incentive for innovation and the outcomes of this funding pouring into their research and development could be beneficial to all despite the high financial cost, I am very concerned about the longterm societal and environmental costs.The Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences agreed with the original decision; however, the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals overturned the case in Chakrabarty's favor, writing that "the fact that micro-organisms are alive is without legal significance for purposes of the patent law." Sidney A. Diamond, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, appealed to the Supreme Court.