So today I had some extra time on my hands/ procrastinating on an essay I’m not really dying to start; and I just got Netflix so I’ve been discovering all these new ways I can explore the world…documentaries! So this morning I watched the film The Future of Food. I saw it back in high school in my super-hippied out Global Studies class and it caught my attention! Well, it just so happens that much of this film is about patenting genes and other products of nature. In Angrist’s Chapter 10, he notes that in 2010, a judged ruled that the company Myriad could NOT patent the BRCA1 or BRAC2 gene, the one that can carry a mutation related to breast cancer. The judge’s reasoning behind ruling against the patent was that “DNA in the body does the same thing outside the body: it carries information…it is not an invention, therefore, it cannot be patented.” Previously, Myriad appeared to have been holding onto this gene with a patent for research on breast cancer, and in doing so, stunting any other progressive research, and the reasoning behind this? It enabled them to make others pay ridiculously large sums of money to get ahold of this gene for their own research… I can’t seem to think of any other reasoning behind Myriad’s purpose for patenting this gene either??? I suppose that by making money off patented genes, it gives them more funding for their own research…I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are good, but is that really why they are patenting it? Or are they just creating and attempting to corner and monopolize a market of genetics??
That’s exactly what The Future of Food talks about in their film. At the beginning of the film, it states that in 1978, an engineer at G.E. created an oil eating microbe (used to possibly clean up oil spills) and he attempted to patent it. Originally, the court denied this patent under the notion that you cannot patent nature!...but G.E. took it to the Supreme court and the patent went through by one vote! The microbe was never used, but this opened the flood gates for an entirely new market of patents. Not only did big companies start buying GMO’s, but also seeds, as they are produced naturally!
Currently Monsanto, the “bad guy” in the film, has about 11,000 patents, primarily seeds, done simply by buying out major seeds companies. Why? The film states that “they can use the one seed to replace all the seeds and they will own the market place”. They’ve also been able to sue U.S. farmers by accusing them of infringing on their patented seeds or products.
With all of this rambling, I just find it to be kind of ridiculous that seeds and genes are being patented. I’m pretty sure that the purpose of a patent is to corner a market and make money. It’s to legally protect what you personally have created so only you can reap the financial benefits of what you believe was originally yours… So why is this involved in breast cancer? Why is a patent involved in a seed that we use as a source to feed people?
Being a psychology major, I tend to find myself questioning the reasoning behind people and human behavior…What is up with this yo??
I also just watched a film called Ingredients on Netflix..its awesome! also related to food, seeds, genetics, and is just an overall good film. Check it out!