06 September 2010

Australian Senate Enquiry into Gene Patents Put On Hold

Seemingly unnoticed amidst the ongoing excitement of Australia's "hung parliament", and while we continue to wait to find out who will be running the country for the next three years, the Senate Community Affairs Committee quietly released a report on its enquiry into gene patents on 26 August 2010.

As stated in the report:

The terms of reference for the inquiry directed the committee to inquire into:

The impact of the granting of patents in Australia over human and microbial genes and non-coding sequences, proteins, and their derivatives, including those materials in an isolated form, with particular reference to:
(a) the impact which the granting of patent monopolies over such materials has had, is having, and may have had on:
(i) the provision and costs of healthcare;
(ii) the provision of training and accreditation for healthcare professionals;
(iii) the progress in medical research; and
(iv) the health and wellbeing of the Australian people;
(b) identifying measures that would ameliorate any adverse impacts arising from the granting of patents over such materials, including whether the Patents Act 1990 should be amended, in light of the any matters identified by the inquiry; and
(c) whether the Patents Act 1990 should be amended so as to expressly prohibit the grant of patent monopolies over such materials.

In the meantime, however, an election was called.  As a result, after 78 public submission, and 8 public hearings, there is (for now at least) no outcome from the enquiry.  As the report concludes:
On 19 July 2010, the Governor-General prorogued the 42nd Parliament and dissolved the House of Representatives. After due consideration, the committee has determined that it is unable to provide a comprehensive report at this time. The committee will reconsider the issues of this inquiry in the event that it is re-referred to the committee in the new parliament.

All-in-all, something of an anticlimax.

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