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Genetically Modified Humans

Written by Subject: Science, Medicine and Technology

Hold onto your hats boys and girls, we are about to enter the Twilight Zone. Genetically modified humans are on their way to a home near you, courtesy of those men in the little white lab coats at Newcastle in Great Britain: 

Scientists in Newcastle claim to have created human sperm in the laboratory in what they say is a world first. The researchers believe the work could eventually help men with fertility problems to father a child. But other experts say they are not convinced that fully developed sperm have been created. 

Writing in the journal Stem Cells and Development, the Newcastle team says it will be at least five years before the technique is perfected. They began with stem cell lines derived from human embryos donated following IVF treatment. The stem cells had been removed when the embryo was a few days old and were stored in tanks of liquid nitrogen. (BBC News

First, we have genetically modified food, which is supposed to “substantially equivalent” to regular food, yet unique enough for a handful of multinational corporations such as Monsanto to gain a slew of patents designed so that the owners of those patents have control over the global food supply. Use a patented seed, pay Monsanto. If a patented gene is found in your crops, pay Monsanto. 

Next, we have genetically modified animals. The patented gene follows the offspring, and according to the New York Times,

(1988) The United States Patent and Trademark Office, in a new policy that could substantially change how livestock and poultry are sold, has determined that companies holding patents on new animal forms have the authority to require farmers to pay royalties.

The royalties would be paid on the sales of patented animals and on generations of their offspring, meaning that farmers would have to pay patent holders a fee for adult animals and for generations of calves, colts, lambs, chicks, and piglets produced through the 17-year life of the patent. (New York Times)

Now we are about to have genetically modified humans. This begs the questions: 

1. Are genetically modified humans “substantially equivalent” to regular humans?
2. Will the genes be patented?
3. If the genes are patented, will the parents of genetically modified offspring be required to pay a patent fee on their children, and their generations through the life of the patent? 

Patents on humans? Not likely, you say. Really. Just a few years ago, we didn’t think that genetically modified animals would be an issue. Now it is. When the genetically modified baby boom starts coming into play, don’t you think the designers will want a patent on the genes? And do you think they will be any less willing to enforce their patent on those genes than Monsanto is on farmers who use the company’s patented technology for crops? 

Let’s face it. We could be looking at a future of patented designer humans. If a person is found to have the patented gene, that person could be indebted for life to the patent holder – born to pay from the moment of conception. This is a multinational corporate wet dream. And last but certainly not least, we have to ask ourselves – do we really want genetically modified humans in our midst?

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