Magazine article New Internationalist

Cell Piracy: Protest against Genetic Patents (on Native Peoples)

Magazine article New Internationalist

Cell Piracy: Protest against Genetic Patents (on Native Peoples)

Article excerpt

SCIENTISTS HAVE BEEN COLLECTING BLOOD, tissue and hair samples from indigenous peoples around the world as part of the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP). The Project is a US - funded effort to catalogue and store the DNA of 'disappearing' indigenous populations for future study and to reconstruct the history of the world's populations.

But to critics like Debra Harry this neutral - sounding science is a thin smokescreen for 'bio - piracy'. A member of the Northern Paiute nation in Nevada, Harry is part of a global coalition outraged by the Project's potential for manipulating and commercializing life - forms. Once blood samples are immortalized in gene banks, unlimited amounts of DNA (the chemical compound which carries the genetic imprint of each human) can be generated and made available for almost any research. Harry asserts this is colonialism at the molecular level: 'They've taken our land and water. Now they want to mine our genetic resources.'

Already three patents from the cell lines of indigenous peoples have been filed. …

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