Nearly Half the Patents on Marine Genes Belong To Just One Company

A creature as majestic as a whale, you might think, should have no owner. Yet it turns out that certain snippets of the DNA that makes a sperm whale a sperm whale are actually the subjects of patents — meaning that private entities have exclusive rights to their use for research and development. From a report: The same goes for countless other marine species. And new research shows that a single German chemical company owns 47 percent of patented marine gene sequences. A just-published paper in Science Advances finds that 862 separate species of marine life have genetic patents associated with them. “It’s everything from microorganisms to fish species,” says lead author Robert Blasiak, a conservation researcher at the University of Stockholm who was shocked to find out how many genetic sequences in the ocean were patented. “Even iconic species” — like plankton, manta rays, and yes, sperm whales. Of some 13,000 genetic sequences targeted by patents, nearly half are the intellectual property of a company called Baden Aniline and Soda Factory (BASF).

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