Gene patenting has been going on for over 100 years while science and technology has been continually allowing for greater advancements. Over the past 30 years alone, there has been over 40,000 patents created and accepted on genes alone. As genes continue to be acquired and patented, it is only a matter of time before large corporations own patents on a large number of human genes and tissues. What may seem staggering, though, is that the more than 20 percent of the human genome is already patented.
The Fears Alongside with Gene Pattenting
To create a patentable gene sequences an individual must find something in nature, isolate it, and alter it in order to create something deemed ‘useful’. Much of the debate in favor of creating gene sequences revolves around society and corporate driven company ownership issues. As a creator of a gene sequence, individuals or companies expect ownership of the creation as well as protection from anyone else stealing the idea. If companies were not able to patent gene sequences, then other companies could exploit the original creators’ ideas and ultimately profit themselves. Of course the patents in question revolve around the human genome, which no corporation rightfully owns. In addition, corporations use the argument that many of these gene sequences correlate with diseases like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. The creation of such gene sequences give merit to the idea of gene manipulation as the created gene sequence could lead to increased protection against bodily invaders.
Company-Owned Intellectual Property and Disregard for Humanity
But do all of these reasons for the pursuit of gene manipulation and biotechnological advancements really stand a chance against why we shouldn’t be so eager and hasty to patent genes? According to the United States government, gene patents are intellectual property to the companies who have created them. As gene sequences continue to be created, so does the potential for a large amount of the human genetic coding to be owned by major corporations. If in the future these patented genes are utilized in the creation of already admitted experimental animals or controversial hybrids, companies will essentially own a portion of the living creature itself. With gene patenting comes company-owned people and animals whom are actually walking intellectual property. It shows a venal disregard for humanity when someone can claim “ownership” of a particular gene, which we all share in our bodies.
The issue of people becoming company-owned intellectual property is concerning, but it is important to remember that the genes are only owned as far as corporate law is concerned. In reality, no company can own a portion of your genetic existence. Another obvious concern is that we simply don’t know what could happen using this technology. Many people are worried about what this means for the future of mankind, long term and short term. This kind of practice is much more intrusive than influential on the human race. No one truly knows just how impactful gene patents will be on the population, or even how the possibility of negative outcomes can be properly dealt with.
Biotechnology and Playing God
While there are many reasons not to support the idea of gene patenting and genetic manipulation in general, one reason often stands above all others – playing God. When tampering with the genetic code that is naturally present in living creatures on this earth, biotechnology companies responsible for creating experimental human hybrids and chimeras are playing the role of God. Similar to how having control of viruses could lead to potential bioweaponization, gene manipulation could also have a very detrimental impact on humanity and all life forms – only the outcome would seem much more irreversible.