Colloquium: Who Owns You?

Surely you own your own genes, don’t you? Think again. Now that the race to map the human genome is over, another competition has ensued. Biotech companies, universities, and research institutions, sensing a biological gold mine, have been engaged in a furious scramble to patent human genes. Presently, more than one-fifth of the human genome is fully patented. As far-fetched as it may sound, corporations and universities now own the exclusive rights to many precious parts of you.

How can this be? Patenting human genes violates international agreements and flies in the face of historical and legal norms regarding the ownership of human parts. Not only that, the practice is a costly and unethical aberration in the law of intellectual property that threatens to impede the pace of scientific and technological progress. Who Owns You? is a wake-up call to the far-reaching implications of the insidious nature of gene patenting.