More Examples Of Patent Incentives Making The World Less Safe

from the hoarding-the-info-needed-to-save-us dept

For years, we've written about how Indonesia has been hoarding bird flu samples and refusing to share them with researchers, because they're afraid that someone will come in and patent the cure, based on the samples they provide, and that will make it much costlier to Indonesia to get the vaccine. Of course, the end result instead might be no vaccine at all... It looks like we may be facing a similar issue with Ug99, a fungus that is aggressively killing wheat crops in Africa and the Middle East -- potentially having a massive impact on global food supplies. FormerAC alerts us to an article about the fight against Ug99, where it's noted that Pakistan won't share some important samples with the rest of the world, again out of fear that some big company will patent what they find:
As the breeders keep tinkering, South Asia is bracing for impact. The CDL recently tried to get its hands on a suspicious P. graminis sample from Pakistan that is said to knock out Sr31. But the country is reluctant to share: "Some countries regard isolates of their pathogens as part of their genetic heritage," CDL director Marty Carson says. "I guess there's a fear that we'll patent something off of it."
Well, given Monsanto's history of patenting disease resistant crops -- and then over-aggressively attacking anyone who uses such crops (even accidentally), it would seem like a rather legitimate fear. Perhaps, rather than brushing this fear off, the USDA's Cereal Disease Laboratory (CDL) should work to do something to fix things?

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  1. identicon
    Rekrul, 16 Mar 2010 @ 10:42am

    They should offer the samples, but only on the condition that all involved are willing to sign an agreement that cures developed from them won't be patented.

    Of course it would have the same effect, as Monsanto and other companies would never sign such an agreement, but at least then it would make them the bad guys.

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