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Expert: Supreme Court Case on Patenting Human Genes Will Likely inflict "Devastating Harm on the American People"

AlterNet talks to the lead attorney fighting efforts to patent human breast and ovarian cancer genes.

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SR: I’m wondering how much this case is indicative of larger trends? Whether it’s problems with the patent system itself, as you were just discussing, or since we’re in this ascendant biotech era, how many other applications are out there? I wonder, for example, if you really can distinguish between patenting human genes or Monsanto doing seed stock? I know you’ve been involved in that litigation. 

DR: Unfortunately, I hope I’m wrong, but I think this is just the first of many instances where our patent system is going to be causing devastating harm to the American people. Because, to date, most American people don’t realize how the patent system negatively affects them. If they know anything at all, they think patents are rewards for garage inventors. But that’s not at all the case. The patent system is an excuse for corporate welfare, where the government intervenes in free-markets and freedom and gives control to corporations. It’s in some ways, I’ve called it ‘outsourced fascism.’ There’s no adequate control. Our patent office is complete rubber stamp that gives corporate America anything it wants so it can raise prices and reduce availability. 

We go and talk about alternative fuels. You know who’s got the most patents on alternative fuels? The oil companies. Why? Because they want to keep those technologies from being developed and brought to the marketplace. 

SR: Well thank you very much.  This has been really helpful. I appreciate your time today.

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).