Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

ACLU Will Take Gene Patent Case to Supreme Court

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Cloning & Patenting page, New York News page, and our Utah News page.


WASHINGTON - When Jaydee Hanson, then-bioethics director for the United Methodist Church, spoke out publicly against gene patents over 15 years ago, some in the biotech industry compared his stance to the Catholic Church's persecution of Galileo, the 15th century astronomer who discovered the moons of Jupiter.

Hanson and 200 other religious leaders had released a statement that DNA in the human body and animals are natural objects and should not be subject to patenting.

Patent supporters in the biotech industry disagree, arguing that "isolated copies" of genes outside the human body should be patentable and that the prospect of intellectual property rights on genes serves as incentive for further research.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced it would ask the Supreme Court to rule on a patent by Myriad Genetics, a genetic diagnostics company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, on "isolated" BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, two genes that can have mutations linked to breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.

Those with a stake in the case say any ruling from the court would have a major impact on patient care, scientific research, and rights to access human genetic information, as well on legal doctrine. 

Get Local

Find News and Action for your state: