By Eric Hoffman
As part of the ACLU's Taking Back Our Genes campaign, guest blogger Eric Hoffman, Policy Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, discusses the danger of gene patents.
Most people are shocked to learn that 20 percent of the human genome has been patented by corporations and scientists, granting companies ownership and sole access to these fundamental building blocks of life. Patents on genes limit the ability of scientists and health researchers to learn more about gene-to-disease correlations and limit progress in fields that could benefit the health of all people, resulting in increasing prices for tests, impediments to alternative research and barriers to patients' access to potentially life-saving technology.
As we've seen in the case of patents on two genes that correlate to increased risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, gene patents can also prevent patients from receiving second opinions on genetic diagnostic tests. This case of gene patenting made headlines when our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union, representing patients, women's health groups, molecular pathologists, and others brought a lawsuit challenging the validity of gene patenting. A district court found in 2010 that genes were facts of nature and therefore unpatentable. Unfortunately, the court of appeals later reversed this decision. Now, the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to take up the case to determine whether genes are patentbale.
Friends of the Earth has been working for to bring an end to gene patents for over five years. We are supporting the ACLU and its plaintiffs in the lawsuit and believes gene patents must be found invalid by the Supreme Court.
ACLU has launched Take Back Our Genes, an excellent new public education campaign to illustrate the personal harms of gene patenting by showcasing those who have been or may be directly impacted by this practice. First visit the campaign website to learn more about their legal case on gene patenting and check-out their video and slideshow that highlight a handful of the heartbreaking human results of gene patenting.
After you've checked out the video and slideshow you can get involved. Tell the ACLU how gene patenting has impacted you or a loved one by submitting aphoto and sharing story of your own. You can also support incredible advocacy groups such as Breast Cancer Action, Our Bodies Ourselves and others who have been to protect patients from the harms posed by gene patents for years. Together we can bring an end to gene patenting to ensure the human genome, and all DNA found in nature, is open to everyone for the benefit of everyone — not just corporate profits.