Monday Jan 21, 2008

Who owns your Genes?

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Michael Crichton

ISBN: 978-0060872984
Pub. Date: November 28, 2006
Publisher: HarperCollins

I don't know if I read Michael Crichton for education or entertainment.

As I scanned the paperback section of the airport bookstore, "Clever," I thought. Michael Crichton's book occupied not one, but three, shelf spaces. The book has three different covers: same design of a monkey and bar code, different background colors of red, green, or white. It worked. I bought a copy.

And this is a usual page turner. Gerald the parrot is the most alive and memorable character. Other are all superficially developed and stereotyped. Then again, you read a Michael Crichton for education and entertainment, not for literature.

He strongly criticized the genetic industry as greedy, anarchical, predatory, and confused. The main point is ownership of genes — can people own genes like intellectual properties?

But I own my body and therefore all my genes, if genes can be owned. I then own half of my biological children's genes too. Unless there was a mutation, they are simply copies of my genes. In fact, biological parents together own all of children's genes.

Hold on. Grand-parents own parents' genes, by the same logic. When they die, their properties, including the genes, are inherited by their offspring. Uncles and aunts therefore own all cousins' genes together. If we pushed upward in the ancestry line, eventually, in legal sense, there is only one possible conclusion: the whole human population together owns the human genome.

This is fun then. If genes can be owned like properties, then genes must be owned by the entire human population, therefore genes cannot be owned by anyone. Without too much effort, one will reach the same conclusion for genes of any species.

No one owns life. How simple and blatantly obvious can that be? <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("Next") Technorati("Michael Crichton") TagEnd() </script>

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