Why Biotech Patents Are Patently Absurd
Scientific Briefing on TRIPs and Related Issues
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
Institute of Science in Society Londonia House 24 Old Gloucester St. London WC1N 3AL, UK
TRIPs, or Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights, is an agreement between member states of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) that seeks to enforce US style patent laws around the world. This agreement covers everything from pharmaceuticals to information technology software and human gene sequences, and is emerging as a major issue dividing North and South. The TRIPs agreement is controversial in at least two areas. First, it threatens the right of poor countries to manufacture, or to import, cheap generic versions of patented drugs. The AIDs epidemic and other diseases are killing millions every year because people in poor countries cannot afford the exorbitant prices the pharmaceutical giants are charging for the patented drugs.
The existing TRIPs agreement also forces all countries to accept a medley of new biotech patents covering genes, cell lines, organisms and living processes that turn life into commodities. Governments all over the world have been persuaded into accepting these 'patents on life' before anyone understood the scientific and ethical implications.
The patenting of life-forms and living processes is covered under Article 27.3(b) of TRIPs. This scientific briefing explains why such patents should be revoked and banned on the following grounds: All involve biological processes not under the direct control of the scientist. They cannot be regarded as inventions, but expropriations from life.
The hit or miss technologies do not qualify as 'inventions', and are inherently hazardous to health and biodiversity.
There is no scientific basis to support the patenting of genes, genomes, cells and microorganisms, which are discoveries at best.
Many patents are unethical; they destroy livelihoods, contravene basic human rights, create unnecessary suffering in animals or are otherwise contrary to public order and morality.
Many patents involve acts of plagiarism of indigenous knowledge and biopiracy of plants (and animals) bred and used by local communities for millenia.
Read this article in full at the Institute of Science in Society webpage