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Faye Flam

Corporations Shouldn't Be Able to Patent Your DNA

A well-intentioned ruling from the Supreme Court left this murky. Congress should end the uncertainty.

This is one case where legal protections for the fruits of R&D can only impede scientific progress.

This is one case where legal protections for the fruits of R&D can only impede scientific progress.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

The practice of patenting genes, once banned by the Supreme Court, may come back soon despite a measure of horror the very idea once inspired. Author Michael Crichton warned of the evils of gene patents in his 2006 novel “Next” and, more directly, in a 2007 New York Times commentary piece.

Crichton’s concern about giving exclusive legal rights to the use of information about human bodies was a matter of principle: “You can’t patent snow, eagles or gravity, and you shouldn’t be able to patent genes, either. Yet by now one-fifth of the genes in your body are privately owned.”