Patenting new lifeforms: more than just Harvard Mouse Part II

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"For the first time, God has competition," adds Pat Mooney of ETC Group. "Venter and his colleagues have breached a societal boundary, and the public hasn't even had a chance to debate the far-reaching social, ethical and environmental implications of synthetic life," said Mooney
Harvard Mouse Part one was a collaboration between Harvard and Du Pont to create a gene that can make mouses susceptible to cancer. USTPO granted the patent application but both Canada and Europe rejected it as they deem it contrary to the the public ordre.

Now we have another patent application from the Venter Institute. A new bacteria not previously existed on the nature. So this is more than just the Harvard Mouse, I suppose there is a new set of 'novelty' being offered here.

The problem is, if we patent the lifeform, the descendant and its variant may be subjected to ownership of the patent owner, I mean, the genetic information. ANother problem entangled with this patent application, the ETC said, is its environmental concerns:
Action Needed: Before syns are allowed to go forward, society must debate whether they are socially acceptable or desirable: How could their accidental release into the environment be prevented or the effects of their intentional release be evaluated? Who will control them, and how? How will research be regulated? In 2006 a coalition of 38 civil society organizations called on synthetic biologists to withdraw proposals for self-governance of the technology.
ETC group is trying to block this patent application for public ordre reasons:

ETC is also writing to WIPO and the U.S. PTO, asking them to reject the patent on the grounds that it is contrary to ordre public (public morality and safety). Later this month ETC Group will attend Synthetic Biology 3.0 (an international conference of synthetic biologists) in Zuerich, Switzerland June 24-26 where it will call upon scientists to join in a global dialogue on synthetic biology. ETC will organize meetings with governments and civil society during the upcoming scientific subcommittee meetings of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Paris, July 2-6, in order to discuss the implications of the creation of synthetic life forms for the Biodiversity Convention and for its protocol on biosafety. ETC Group will convene a global meeting of civil society actors on this and related issues within the next year.