View Single Post
Old 02-27-2011, 12:47 AM   #20
philip's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: North Bergen / Cliffside Park New Jersey


I had a hectic week in work, I wanted to respond carefully so I put it off.

I am just going to walk through the points made, and offer viewpoints (I just want to be clear though, not all of these view points are held by me, but I do understand the point to some extent I suppose).

Patenting of life.
So, again, I would say the phrasing it this way is slightly inflammatory. Generally what is being referred to is patenting of the use of an allele for some specific application. (Aside : from what I understand of patent law (not a huge amount) you don't patent technologies, you patent applications of technologies.)

And, at first glance this does seem bizarre. How can somebody patent something that is part of me???

Well, this is not new. The drug industry has patented chemicals ~identical to chemicals in our body for a long time.

This does not make it right, but it is not a new concept fundamentally.

The rights and wrongs of it are not black and white. We live in a Democratic, Capitalistic society. We exchange money for services. Companies must make profits
or they will cease to exist. If you want to use the tools presented to you by the understanding of bits of the genome, you need to pay for these tools to be understood somehow.
Patent law exists to allow this to happen. It allows companies pay for the salaries of armies of people to sort through data and test hypotheses. This is not a surprise.

Clearly extortion is never a good thing, but if the spirit of the law is implemented in the way it was framed it's not guaranteed that this will happen. It's easy to say corporations are evil, and to rail against this idea. But they are an outcome of capitalism. In reality not all corps are evil though.

I would be very wary of the likes of Crichton (who in reality doesn't know a huge amount about this sort of thing) defining your viewpoint. It is not as simple as he is portraying it.
The patenting of genes is definitely not necessary for science, but it is one way to go about it.
Again, to be pedantic, they are not patenting life, they are patenting an application of a technology, the technology in question being a piece of chromosome.

Also, If jurisprudence works, and abuse is found, the law can be changed. The law is generally there to protect people, not harm them.

Gloria, I suppose I am generally thinking about changes that are known as "integrated" into the genome. That is they are actually inserted into the c'some, along with some class of control elements. How they get integrated is interesting, but I am thinking about the end result, ie a new stretch of data in the c'some. Once a change is integrated, then it becomes heritable. Once it becomes heritable, then it can become wild.

This is (I think) the part that people worry about, or maybe should worry about.

What I am saying is, change has occurred for a long time in our genomes. How these changes occur does not bother me, there are a lot of ways. But saying some changes are bad, and some are OK because of how they got there seems silly to me.

Just a little aside; there is a thing called horizontal gene transfer. It's widely used in the bacterial world. Genes cut themselves out of the genome, duplicate themselves, and go through a little tube into another organism, and re-integrate themselves in that organisms genome.
Think about that. The gene simply copies itself over into another genome of another organism. This has happened for a very long time.
If anything sounds potentially disastrous, that does.

Yet, here we all are, alive and well.

Take another example, look at say any human viral genome. They regularly copy big chunks of their our genomes into their own. Why would anything want to rob our genes?
What use is it for a virus?
Well, what they use them for are for example to make molecules that change the behviour of the host's immune system to allow them to replicate better.
Imagine this, this is the most crackpot 9/11 conspirators wildest dream. The system that is meant to keep us alive, our immune system, is being cloned dropped into another genome, and used by foreign organisms to imitate and subvert its original function.

My point is, genes are moving about place at a phenomenal rate. They are jumping around the place, and doing all kinds of crazy things.
BUT, we are doing fine. And the reason we are doing fine is because we have the incalculable pressure of natural selection driving genomes to be very resiliant. It's always been doing this, brutally efficiently, and it's not about to stop.

I am not saying that we just throw caution to the wind and start to party, but I am saying that genomes are not fragile things just about to explode.
philip is offline   Reply With Quote