The Patenting of Human Genetic Material

Who Owns the Human Genome? Patenting the Human Cell Lines of Indigenous People

Issue: In the 1980's US court decisions set international precedent for the patenting of human genetical material. As a result, exclusive monopolies over human genetic materials are becoming commonplace in the industrialized world, without discussion of the social, ethical and political implications. Perhaps most disturbing is the degree to which orinary citizens, both North and South, have been marginalized from discussion and debate on the patenting of human genetic material. In the absence of public awareness and debate, issues of ethics and equity have been ecliosed by the interest of the biotechnology industry. Most recently, the US government has laid claim to "immortalize" human cell lines extracted from citizens of Panama,  New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

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