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Brave New World
"Oh brave new world that has such creatures in it," but who owns them? Shakespeare didn't answer that question in the Tempest, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently did--at least for chimps with human brains.

The Patent Office denied an application to patent a technique for combing human cells with a chimp's, or with other animals, to create something new. The Patent Office decided the new thing would be too close to human to be patented. There's something about the Thirteenth Amendment and slavery.

Winston's readers better get used to this issue. It isn't going away. According to reports, a Stanford researcher is injecting human brain stem cells into mouse fetuses to produce creatures with brains that are part human, part mouse. Stanford promises to destroy their lab projects if they start acting too human. Chinese researchers have created embryos that are a mixture of human and rabbit genes. The only limits to this line of research seem to be how far should you go, and is there any money in it?

The National Academy of Science may try to answer both questions-at least indirectly-in a report scheduled for publication in April 2005. The NAS report is innocuously titled "Intellectual Property Rights in Genomics and Protein-Related Research." The project description is more reveling. It explains that NAS will report on "the patenting and licensing of human genetic material and proteins, which represent an extension of intellectual property rights to naturally occurring biological material and scientific information...."

Winston freely admits that the science is way over his head. Should anyone ask his opinion, however, Winston would tell the transgenic guys ( I wonder if any of them are named Frankenstein) not to mess with dogs. We are clearly a perfect species as it is, infinitely superior to humans, and can reproduce ourselves quite well into many breeds without any help from a lab technician with a petri dish full of human genes.

  • Click for more information about NAS report.

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