3.1040 Notes and Queries: invented beasts (74)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Mon, 12 Feb 90 22:01:56 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1040. Monday, 12 Feb 1990.

Date: Mon, 12 Feb 90 19:58 EST
Subject: A different twist to the copywrite discussions

An interesting twist to the copyright discussions that have taken
place on this forum is provided by the debate over patenting
"transgenic" (genetically modified) animals.

The ethical issues are summarized in an April 1989 _Special Report_
of the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress,
_New Developments in Biotechnology: Patenting Life_ (OTA-BA-370,
Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office). The Report is
summarized in the November 1989 Issue of _Ethics and Medics_ (Vol. 14,
No. 11).

The summary in _Ethics and Medics_ begins "A mouse developed - but
not educated - at Harvard was patented last year (Patent
#4,736,866)". It then notes the increasing dis-ease with such
developments, and summarizes arguments for and against such patents,
as quoted below:


* Patent law regulates inventiveness, not commercial uses of
* Patenting promotes useful consequences such as new products and
research into solutions of problems.
* Patenting is necessary if the nations biotechnological industry is
to be able to compete internationally.
* If patenting is not allowed, inventors will resort to trade secret
protection which could hinder the sharing of useful information.
* Patenting rewards innovation and entrepreneurship.


* Patenting raises metaphysical and theological concerns (e.g.
promotes a materialistic conception of life, raises issues of the
sanctity of human worth, violates species' integrity).
* Patenting will lead to increased animal suffering and
inappropriate human control over animal life.
* Other countries do not permit the patenting of animals, leading to
potential adverse economic implications for the Third World.
* Patenting promotes environmentally unsound policies.
* Patenting produces excessive burdens on American agriculture
(increased costs to consumers, concentration in production of
animals, payment of royalties of succeeding generations of

Philip E. Yevics PEY365@Scranton
Theology/Religious Studies
University of Scranton PA 18510 USA

[I cannot resist the following quotation:

"For books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency
of life in them to be as active as that soul whose progeny they are;
nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and
extraction of that living intellect that bred them....
he who destroys a good book kills reason itself, kills the image
of God, as it were, in the eye... slays an immortality rather than
a life."
John Milton, Areopagitica (1644)