As courts and bureaucrats continue to assert that citizens have no fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice, we find Monsanto lurking nearby. The Wisconsin judge who recently ruled that we have no right to own a cow or drink its milk resigned to join one of Monsanto’s law firms.
Former judge Patrick J. Fiedler now works for Axley Brynelson, LLP, which defended Monsanto against a patent infringement case filed by Australian firm, Genetic Technologies, Ltd. (GTL) in early 2010.
GTL had sued several biotechnology firms, a medical lab and a crime lab that had used its patented methods for analyzing DNA sequences. Though a federal case, the district court which heard the matter, sits in Dane County, Wisconsin, where Fiedler coincidentally served as a state judge.
In that case, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) “upheld Genetic Technologies Ltd.’s patent for noncoding DNA technologies, giving more firepower to the Australian company’s patent infringement suit against Monsanto Inc., Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. and a slew of rival laboratories,” reports Law360.
In another link, Myriad Genetics, which holds the exclusive U.S. patent on human genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, granted the license to GTL in 2002. These human genes are associated with breast and ovarian cancer.
In 2009, the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation (PubPat) sued the PTO, Myriad Genetics, and principals at the University of Utah Research Foundation, charging that patents on genes are unconstitutional and invalid. The suit also charges that such patents stifle diagnostic testing and research that could lead to cures and that they limit women’s options regarding their medical care.
In an absurd ruling this year, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the patent on these human genes, even though the DNA sequence occurs in nature. The court decided that simply because researchers had been able to extract it, the firm owns it. Of course, under this thinking, all of nature can be patented if human technology allows extraction.
“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted thousands of patents on human genes – in fact, about 20 percent of our genes are patented. A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene. As a result, scientific research and genetic testing has been delayed, limited or even shut down due to concerns about gene patents,” commented ACLU.
The US ruling gives Myriad monopolistic control over these human genes, and over diagnostic testing for that DNA sequence. The case is now headed to the US Supreme Court.
The Myriad patent was also challenged in Australia and at the European Patent Office. In 2009, the EPO granted a highly restricted BRCA1 patent.
Australia’s case will be heard in February 2012. Dr Luigi Palombi, who supports the pending Patent Amendment Bill, believes the US decision “is irrational, contrary to scientific fact and little more than a knee-jerk reaction to the fear mongering of the American biotechnology industry. It claims that without gene patents it will not have any incentive to undertake necessary research. Of course, this is a lie.”