Opinion: Gene patenting case comes down to individual liberty

Kevin Griffin

Kevin Griffin

Kevin GriffinIt is sometimes frightening to think our corporate economy and ways technology have evolved to create a world that very often seems odd.

One of these issues, the patenting of certain altered genes, will soon be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The case involves Myriad Genetics’ patent claims over two modified genes, which have been used for breast and ovarian cancer research, according to The New York Times. Myriad’s patent claim is being challenged by a group of physicians, patients and other assorted medical professionals.

There are a number of reasons to be skeptical of gene patenting.

The legal question is whether or not such patenting of altered genes violates the specification in patent law that no “law of nature” can be patented.

There are the ethical questions and questions of where this could lead.

The general rule about limiting ownership over new technology and scientific discoveries should be individual liberty and control.

Furthermore, gene patenting entails other negative outcomes.

The current patent system is causing harm to the research field.

A 2010 study by a committee from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services found that doctors and researchers had been blocked from doing testing on important diseases because of the patent restrictions, according to The Huffington Post.

A survey in 2003 showed that “53 percent of the directors of genetics labs had given up some research due to gene patent concerns.” The current system both limits competition and the availability of tests to those who need them.

We should all be weary when corporations try to claim extensive rights to things so intimately important to all people.

 We should be vigilant in protecting individual rights against technological or corporate encroachment.

The current debate over gene patenting is an excellent place to start.

Griffin, a freshman journalism major from Madison, is the opinion editor.