Geneconomics: ethical considerations for the privatization of genes

25th May 2014 |
Front panel of sarcophagus with a relief “Amazonomachy.”


GeneconomicsSince 1991, 20% of human DNA sequences have been patented (Jensen and Murray, 2005). Gene sequencers (MinION) the size of thumb-drives will soon be available to the market for less than a $1000, for single-use only, and can process an entire sequence within a matter of hours rather than days or years. DNA has also been used to code ebooks in a much more compressed and repairable medium. Angelina Jolie’s breasts have gone up for sale in the trivial patenting of Myriad’s BRCA 1 gene. The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated these claims last year, stating “merely isolating genes that are found in nature does not make them patentable”. Meanwhile in Svalbard, Monsanto builds a massive seed bank to withstand most man-made and natural calamities. This lecture dealt with the ethics of gene-hoarding, sequencing, and privatization. Is there a place for genes in our modern economy or do they at least hold the key to preserving it?

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