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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Letters Segment and Living on Earth Address

Air Date: Week of May 27, 1994

Transcript

CURWOOD: Now it's time to check in with our listener comment line. Our recent story on the efforts of US scientists to patent genes taken from a Panamanian Indian woman has brought many calls, including this one from a listener in Pleasant Garden, North Carolina.

CALLER: On your article about the ownership of genes, human and plant and animal, it's not a question of who owns the genes. The people in question don't own genes; they merely possess them during their lives. The business of creating life and adapting life through artificial processes is going to continue just as people bred roses and Gregor Mendel bred peas hundreds of years ago. It's inevitable. Government can try and slow it down, but they can't stop it.

CALLER: Hello. My name is Mike Beckman; I'm calling from Tampa, Florida. I listen to 88.5, WMNF. Placing patents on and claiming exclusive monopoly and control over a product of nature is unethical. The bounty of nature is something which we are all part of. Our DNA surely was not created by a biotechnical corporation, at least not one from this planet. Thank you very much.

CALLER: Hello, this is Richard Aldrich. I listen to WCPN in Cleveland, and WKSU in Kent. I believe that patenting genetic materials is patently absurd. If Galileo were alive today, he would have every right to patent his telescope and make a profit. But I hope he wouldn't have the right to patent the moons of Jupiter and charge me 17 bucks every time I looked up into the sky. Similarly, genetic scientists have every right to patent equipment and techniques for decoding and cataloguing genetic material. And just so long as they pay royalties to the Panamanian woman, they have a right to patent medicines developed using her DNA. Finally, they even have a right to charge me 137 bucks for a sample of it, because this is a huge savings over organizing my own expedition to collect a sample for myself. But let's get out of this sick, European-American mentality that being the first to plant a flag gives one the right to monopolize forever the handiwork of God.

 

 

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