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Crop Biotech Update

Professor Recommends Patent System to Regulate Gene Editing

October 31, 2018

The issue regarding ethical, economic, and environmental concerns of gene editing humans and other organisms remains in the middle of an argument as governments lack feasible and concrete approach in treating such technology. Professor Shobita Parthasarathy from University of Michigan has a recommendation to resolve this issue - patents.

In an article in Nature, Prof. Parthasarathy writes that the solution to the problem is "hiding in plain sight" as she tackles the usage of the patent system in monitoring past technologies, such as George Westinghouse's alternating current (AC). The professor says that using the patent system would open doors for public discussion and elaborates this suggestion by citing the European Union's way of regulating biotechnological inventions, which includes granting patents to modified animals only if the benefit outweighs the harm. The professor also mentions how a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology has obtained patent for "gene drive," which requires the licensing body to inform the owner of the usage of the technology.

Prof. Parthasarathy suggests the patent system for gene editing to be government-driven, saying that this approach would be more transparent and politically legitimate than private efforts. This approach could involve an advisory committee, composed of experts in the fields of environmental protection, patent and trademark, human health, technology assessment, social science, law, history, and science. Using such framework would enable the government to evaluate which patents are important for public interest and monitor the end-use and pricing of the end-products.

For more information, read the article in Nature.