Gene Patents Dilemma

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Make Up Dilemma Discussion
Gene Patents
Dilemma:
With the advent of genetic technology and the ability for humans to manipulate, modify and alter the
genomes of various organisms has come an interest in being able to patent such changes. When a
company patents something, they own the rights to it for a limited amount of time—no one else is
allowed to produce, sell or use their patented item or object during that time period without the
companies’ permission.
When the object in question is a new type of seat belt latch for a car, or a better zipper pull, most
people find it to be an acceptable way to reward innovators. But what if the item in question is a living
organism?
Numerous companies now own the patents to living organisms like “Zebra Glo-Fish,” sold in pet shops.
Glo-fish are Zebra danios that have been modified to include a spliced gene from a bioluminescent
jellyfish to make their colors neon bright. No other company or person is allowed to sell or breed these
fish—they are owned by the company that engineered them.
Taking this a step further… some companies have been seeking the right to patent genes, including
human genes. Should companies that identify genes in the human genome be allowed to patent them?
Some companies feel that their work in identifying these genes ought to be rewarded.
Where do you stand on this? Is it acceptable to patent living things, or their genes? How might liveorganism or gene patents affect Americans and our society? Explain your reasoning using examples from
the articles.
Articles:
• http://news.yahoo.com/high-court-throws-human-gene-patents-161634977.html
• http://frankenfish.com/main-2/genetically-engineered-fish/glofish
• http://www.columbia.edu/cu/21stC/issue-3.1/lewis.html
• http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/06/130614-supreme-court-gene-patentruling-human-genome-science/
• http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/36076/title/Gene-Patents-Decision-Everybody-Wins/

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