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Cloning and Gene Patents:
The Future in Biotechnology
Laci Dalton
Academic affiliation: Oklahoma State University
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If there is anything for certain in this world it is that technology is everywhere around us. From the breakfast that is eaten to the car that is driven, technology has a hand in everything we do and say in today’s society. For some, the question of concern is that maybe scientists have taken risky ventures a little too far. In Wil S. Hylton’s article, “Who Owns This Body?” we are shown that most people are oblivious to the changes that have occurred in the scientific world. In William A. Haseltine’s article, “The Case For Gene Patents,” there is some explanation in the meaning of gene patents that have become so popular in today’s world of technology. The definition is actually placed on what the patent was supposed to be. The definition is given in Haseltine’s article in hope that people will be able to understand the definition that was used to make patents into what they have become. Maybe we do not own our own bodies. Maybe someone else does. The truth may be that someone owns our body. Many doctors and genetics companies own most of the genes and tissues in our body. There are many ways to shed light on the true facts of gene patenting such as what they were originally meant for, the ways that they have gotten out of control, and the misleading fact that gene patents have not definitely changed in description.

The public confusion between genes and patents has brought dilemmas to today’s technology. The favored opinion is that patents declare some sort of ownership by a certain inventor over a certain organism or product like the pigs that have been patented by Dupont. That is not the clear true definition. “A patent is a social contract between society and an inventor, originally developed by the Venetians to promote trade and commerce and avoid the accumulation of trade secrets. Today, society grants patents that assign to inventors exclusive commercial rights for their inventions provided they meet all these criteria: An invention must be novel and not obvious. It cannot be known or deduced directly from prior knowledge. An invention must be useful—knowledge itself cannot be patented.

A patent must enable others to use the invention by providing specific instructions” (Haseltine 59). Patents were seen as an agreement between two groups where the inventor would have certain rights to the product, but they could not keep it from other researchers. If this had stayed this way patents would not have gotten as out of control as they have. This innovative vision was made to protect their investments. Patents were made to expand the knowledge of the unsuspecting public. According to Hylton, people do not even own their own bodies anymore. Have patents gotten that out of control that a person has to pay outrageous prices for a gene that is in their body? The truth is that people should not have to pay for something that belongs to their body in the first place.

When patents were started they were used for inventions, and it was stated that organisms could not be patented. However companies fought that opinion, and it eventually was changed to state that almost anything could be patented. The parts of the human body began to be used for research. This idea started out as a good plan because inventors were interested in the well being of their patients. Nevertheless scientists became greedy and money hungry, and they took advantage of poor people like John Moore. “The patented cell line and the products derived from it cannot be Moore’s property” (Hylton 109). This statement is made to support the fact that patents have definitely gotten out of control. How could a man not own his own body? The genes that were in his body did not belong to him. The doctor that had started by helping him had found a certain gene that was particularly interesting to genetic companies who paid him in stock for his scientific research. This man was fighting a losing battle because of the fact that patents were made legal for almost any invention. When patents were defined, the only thing that could not be patented was knowledge. That hold has produced much controversy on the subject of gene patents. Has the government gone too far in its research? Will the patenting of human genes be normal in the years to come? Will they rank right up there with cloning and stem research? People would like to know the answers to such questions as these that are presented here. Yes, the government has gone too far in its research. No, the patenting of human genes should not be a normal thing in the years to come. If the government continues to allow this to happen patenting will rank right up there with cloning and stem research. People that are being used for scientific findings are not going to sit by and do nothing while technology passes them by. If advances in science are being noticed then action should be taken so that people can regain the rights to their bodies.

Another question that boggles people’s brains is how government is going to stop this or even slow it down so that it can be kept within limits. It would help if the lawmaking bodies of the government did not share the confusion of gene patenting or did anything to help with the confusion shared by many Americans. If the government is having problems with patenting it is fairly safe to assume that the laws surrounding and protecting gene patents have indeed left their safety net, and it is time that something should be done about it. Scientists started with the knowledgeable appliance of patenting to microorganisms in the lab, where they could be controlled and invented. “In fact, just twenty-five years ago, you couldn’t patent any of it: genes, cells, blood, marrow, even a clipped fingernail. Back then, the U.S. patent code looked a lot more like the code Thomas Jefferson wrote, the code that was designed to protect inventions—think cotton gins, whoopee cushions, Twinkies!—made on American soil” (Hylton 110). If these patents are meant to be protected, then that should be done. However the patents should have stopped there. Now they are so out of control that nothing can be done to hinder the progress that has been made to further scientific technology.

The progress that has been made in the vast field of science is by no means anything less that extraordinary. If it had not been for Jim Watson DNA may have never been found to what it was or it would have been longer down the road before it had been mapped. That was a great way to start a scientific theory that is going to go on for ages to come. One of the questions that need to be answered is how much the meaning of patenting has changed in the time since it first began. Now a simple mouse with breast cancer can not be used without there being a price to be named. In the past there was a definite definition of patenting, and that was an agreement between society and the inventor. Now it has changed to an ownership agreement between researchers and genetics companies. That was the problem with John Moore and Jeff Green. They were people, and they had lives like everyone else. They were caught up in the swirl of greed that affects some of the scientists today. Some scientists are genuine in helping the people in need, but there are a few bad apples like Dr. Golde that get caught up in the money and attention. They leave their principles behind, and they get caught in themselves. The new light has dawned on some scientists, and they become encompassed in greed that eventually takes over who they really are as an individual.

If the ways of the world are going to change then it is time that the nation comes together as a whole and fight against many of the wrongs that have come at them. If John Moore cannot own his own body, if Jeff Green does not have the freedom to control his own cancer mouse, if Jim Watson is not free to research DNA at his own speed then the harmful truth that gene patenting may have gotten out of control and nobody seemed to notice. If things were placed in front of the public’s view then they may have a clear picture of what to see and what to not see. Maybe it is time for a person to take all control of gene patenting so that no one else can get a set of greedy hands on that type of power. If worse comes to that then one patent that controls all may have to be made. This may help against the scientists that are consumed by greed like Dr. Golde, Craig Venter, or Philip Leder. These men all started out like perfectly good men, but they were consumed by the money and the fortune that something like a mouse would give them. Has the world gained so much control that it has forgotten the real reasons that patents were made? Have many people gained so much knowledge that they have forgotten who the truly are? No, the world has not gained that much control, if someone would care enough to see something change. No, people have not gained enough knowledge to play the role of a god. If the world can be reminded of what a patent really is, how it can be controlled, and how they can revert back to what they used to be then the ways of proper conduct in the scientific field will not be forgotten. The only way that will happen is if people care enough to see the proper moral take its place among society. Humanity has to care enough to make a change in the world today. They have to care enough not to be oblivious. Then the world can go on living the way it has, and the way it should be in years to come.

Works Cited

Haseltine, William A. “The Case For Gene Patents” Technology Review, 2000. 59

Hylton, Wil S. “Who Owns This Body” Speculations An Anthology for Reading, Writing, and Research. Landrum, Jason, Matthew Wynn Sivils, and Constance Squires, eds. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, 2003. 107-25.

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