News Release

Interviews Available: Genome and Philip Morris / Nabisco

JONATHAN KING
Professor of molecular biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, King is on the board of the Council for Responsible Genetics. He said today: “The determination of human gene sequences represents the outcome of 50 years of public investment in basic biomedical research. The publicly released gene sequence data provide important inputs into understanding the biological basis of human health and disease…. Our genes were inherited from our parents through their parents and previous generations; their sequences are not inventions of corporate or any other scientists. The patenting of human genes by Celera, Human Genome Sciences and other companies and institutions represents an egregious expropriation of our human heritage. The requirement to pay license fees to access our own gene sequences is a barrier that can only retard biomedical progress. Congress needs to instruct the Patent Office to cease granting patents on human gene sequences and to exclude living creatures, their genes or components from the patent system.”
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JAMES LOVE
Director of the Consumer Project on Technology, Love said today: “The mapping of the human genome is a great opportunity for science, but also a very big challenge for public policy makers. Commercial interests are seeking to stake claims on very basic scientific results. There is a growing risk that scientific research and the development of new therapies will be confronted with endless lawsuits over intellectual property rights. The disputes over the licensing of BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene patents are examples of the types of issues that will be facing policy makers. How much power and discretion will we give to patent owners when it comes to controlling access to new health-care related inventions? How can we prevent the land rush for new gene patents from blocking academic research? This is the beginning of a very important debate.”
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SALLY HERRIN
Communications director of the Nebraska Farmers Union, Herrin said today: “The purchase of Nabisco by Philip Morris, owner of Kraft Foods and the largest U.S. food processor, is hardly good news. Spokesmen for Philip Morris concede that consumers will not benefit with lower costs. The food processing industry is already one of the most highly concentrated sectors of our economy. Further concentration of power into the hands of the nation’s largest food company is not good for family farmers or ranchers, the folks who produce the raw material food. Agricultural producers cannot control the price of what they produce, because unlike most industries, hundreds of thousands of sellers (individual farm and ranch families) must sell to only a handful of buyers — four or five large food processors.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167