Who Owns Your Genes? Are Genes Property?
Treaty Initiative to Share the Genetic Commons
Are genetic structures private property, to be owned by individuals and corporations? Public property, to be owned by government? Or a common property to be stewarded by all of humanity?
In this topic, the questions are more plentiful than the answers. Who should profit from the structure of a gene? Should you be barred from researching a gene, because someone else claims a patent or copyright? Should "speculating" in genetic material be legal? When a bulldozer kills plants and animals that might have contained unique genetic material, what sort of penalty should be levied?
An organization called the Foundation on Economic Trends has released this proposed treaty on this subject. See what you think.
We proclaim these truths to be universal and indivisible;
That the intrinsic value of the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, precedes its utility and commercial value, and therefore must be respected and safeguarded by all political, commercial and social institutions,
That the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, exists in nature and, therefore, must not be claimed as intellectual property even if purified and synthesized in the laboratory,
That the global gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, is a shared legacy and, therefore, a collective responsibility,
Whereas, our increasing knowledge of biology confers a special obligation to serve as a steward on behalf of the preservation and well being of our species as well as all of our other fellow creatures,
Therefore, the nations of the world declare the Earth’s gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, to be a global commons, to be protected and nurtured by all peoples and further declare that genes and the products they code for, in their natural, purified or synthesized form as well as chromosomes, cells, tissue, organs and organisms, including cloned, transgenic and chimeric organisms, will not be allowed to be claimed as commercially negotiable genetic information or intellectual property by governments, commercial enterprises, other institutions or individuals.
The Parties to the treaty - to include signatory nation states and Indigenous Peoples - further agree to administer the gene pool as a trust. The signatories acknowledge the sovereign right and responsibility of every nation and homeland to oversee the biological resources within their borders and determine how they are managed and shared. However, because the gene pool, in all of its biological forms and manifestations, is a global commons, it cannot be sold by any institution or individual as genetic information. Nor can any institution or individual, in turn, lay claim to the genetic information as intellectual property.
If you are interested in signing on to the Treaty Initiative, contact The Treaty Initiative to Share the Genetic Commons, Fax: 202.429.9602 Email: Treaty@foet.org Tel: 202.466.2823, postal: 1660 L Street NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20036 USA.
There are many other Common Assets in our world. For more on this subject, visit the Common Assets Headquarters
Does this treaty make sense? What does it leave out? Or does it say too much? Tell your views to The Progress Report:
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