The Center for Genetics and Society is a nonprofit information and public affairs organization working to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of the new human genetic and reproductive technologies. We work with a growing network of scientists, health professionals, civil society leaders, and others.
The Center for Genetics and Society supports the efforts of the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation to challenge the patents that have been granted on breast cancer genes, and applauds the urgently needed public and policy discussions about gene patents that the lawsuit will instigate.
As a public interest organization that works to encourage responsible uses and effective societal governance of human genetic and reproductive technologies, CGS is greatly concerned about the deleterious effects of the U.S. Patent Office’s approach to gene patents on public health, patient well-being and scientific advance. With patents already granted on 20 percent of human genes, these problems are already significant and well documented, and are likely to worsen. The commercial interests of current or prospective patent holders should not be elevated over public health.
We agree with many legal observers that human genes are products of nature, and therefore not in and of themselves eligible for patent protection.
On ethical grounds, we believe that the information that is an inherent property of genes should be available to all, not controlled by commercial entities. As the World Medical Association has stated, human genes are part of humanity’s “common heritage.”
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