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Federal Bill to Ban Patents on Human Genes Introduced

Genetic Crossroads
April 30th, 2007

The "Genomic Research and Accessibility Act," introduced by Representatives Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Dave Weldon (R-FL), would prohibit future patents on human genes, a practice that has given "private corporations, universities, and even the federal government…a monopoly on significant sections of the human genome." The introduction to the bill notes that 20% of the approximately 35,000 known genes in the human body have been patented, and describes gene patenting as "a regulatory mistake."

Critics have long voiced concerns about commercializing and privatizing human genes. Many argue that they belong to humanity's common heritage. In addition, patents on human genes and genetic material hamper health care and research by discouraging information sharing, diminishing genetic tests' accessibility, and creating research impediments.

Gene patents permit the exclusive control and ownership of important research materials by creating complicated thickets of ownership and licensing. For instance, a researcher who wants to investigate breast cancer would have to negotiate with not only the patent holder for the full BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, but with all the other patent holders who had discovered and patented any of the hundreds of other mutations in those particular genes.

For more information or to support the bill (HR 977), contact Steve Haro, [email protected] or Greg Buss, [email protected] .


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