Thursday, June 13, 2013

Supreme Court Agreement On Gene Patents?! Wow!

It's Unanimous. 

The Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. Supreme Court case has been decided.  Nobody can have a patent on naturally occurring genes.

Synthetically derived DNA, on the other hand, is free game.  The case had to do with the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, which are associated with breast cancer.  The question involved was whether or not a company could hold a patent of a gene within the human body, in order to effectively have control over research involving the gene.

This morning, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that a company had no such right.

I didn't know total agreement was 
even possible with this group!

This doesn't mean all DNA is safe from patent, of course.  As Justice Thomas pointed out in the majority opinion (or should I just say, "The Opinion"?),
Held: A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and
not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring. 
So cDNA, or complementary DNA, is still fair game.  It's synthetic DNA, since it's created via an mRNA template.

It's a start, right?

For now, the Supreme Court has decided that nobody can patent my boobs.  

Well, the material within them, anyway... and that makes me pretty darned relieved.  Is this ruling perfect?  No, of course not.  It's a start, though.

My question now, though, is:

What does this ruling mean in terms of agriculture?  Is a gene still considered synthetic if it is located within a naturally grown third generation corn seed?  Or is it still protected by patent?


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