Pirates Ahoy!: Micro-Organisms, Plants, Animals, Human Genes -- Anything Goes in the Patenting Free-for-All. Here Are a Few Case Studies

New Internationalist, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Pirates Ahoy!: Micro-Organisms, Plants, Animals, Human Genes -- Anything Goes in the Patenting Free-for-All. Here Are a Few Case Studies


Soybeans

THE CLAIMS

A share of the multi-billion-dollar soybeans crop could make a patent-holder very happy indeed. A biotechnology company called Agracetus was awarded a patent in 1994 which covered all transgenic soybeans. Monsanto protested vigorously, alleging lack of novelty. But when Monsanto purchased Agracetus the complaints were dropped.

[Graph Not Transcribed]

Currently Monsanto has an application lodged with the World Intellectual Property Organization (already granted in Australia) which claims gene sequences associated with high-yielding soybeans plants, all plants which have them, including those in the wild, and screening methods to identify the molecular marker of the sequences.

THE FALLOUT

Such broad patents stake out territory, blocking competition. Farmers sowing saved seeds could find themselves legally pursued by Monsanto as has often occurred. If the application is granted breeders of soybeans would be severely restricted. Ironically, the gene sequence originates from a wild Chinese species of soybeans. China, the genetic homeland of the crop, won't receive a bean.

Hoodia

THE CLAIMS

A succulent plant chewed by the San people of southern Africa to suppress hunger on long treks. South Africa's Council for Scientific Research (CSIR) isolated the appetite-suppressing ingredient and promptly patented it. Phytopharm - a British biotech company - licensed it from CSIR, and then licensed it on to Pfizer (of Viagra fame) for $32 million. Pfizer hopes to put an anti-obesity drug on the market which could be worth $2 billion a year.

THE FALLOUT

The San were not best pleased with this result, especially as Phytopharm's chief executive claimed they had 'disappeared' when mutterings of compensation for their traditional knowledge arose. They sued. A benefit-sharing agreement is now in the air with possible roles for the San to harvest the plant, educational scholarships and royalty payments. But such royalties are rarely above 1-2 per cent, if that. And if this is a victory, does that make patenting life OK? Whatever happened to life belonging to us all?

Oncomouse

THE CLAIMS

Genetically engineered by the lab coats at Harvard University to be susceptible to cancer, the oncomouse was the first animal to be patented in the US in 1987. It and its offspring, who shared this susceptibility, were offered up to the medical establishment as experimental animals for cancer therapy research. The multinational DuPont snapped up the European patent in 1992, attempting to gain control over all animals produced using the oncomouse technique. DuPont also staked claims to any future anticancer products created using the animals.

THE FALLOUT

The European patent was contested by public groups on the grounds that it was contrary to morality, but the European Patent Office replied saying that interpreting morality was beyond its remit. They later took the position that any 'invention' that benefited humanity more than the suffering caused to the animal was morally acceptable. In November 2001 the patent was upheld 'limited to transgenic rodents containing an additional cancer gene'. The battle in the Canadian courts lasted 15 years before a Canadian patent was granted in August 2000.

The bottom line is that this patent reduced animals to the level of machines. It changed traditional prohibitions on the patenting of breeds, especially those that offended morality. It opened the floodgates to further animal patents. Numerous transgenic animals are in the pipeline.

Milk, eggs and meat

THE CLAIMS

With a plethora of obesity-related diseases plaguing the rich world, low-cholesterol animal products would rake in cash. The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine filed for a world patent covering animals genetically engineered to have increased muscle mass. The application was staggering in its breadth, claiming not only ownership of transgenic animals and how they are created, but also all their food products. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Pirates Ahoy!: Micro-Organisms, Plants, Animals, Human Genes -- Anything Goes in the Patenting Free-for-All. Here Are a Few Case Studies
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.