06 September 2010

Gene Patents to Feature on Australian "Four Corners" TV Program

As our Australian readers will know, Four Corners on public broadcaster ABC is this country's longest-running and most respected investigative journalism program.

Tonight (Monday, 6 September 2010) the story is entitled "Body Corporate", pitched as "the story of the battle that will decide who owns your body and the biological building blocks that make you the person that you are."

We have previously reported on the Myriad cases in Australia and the US (here, here and here), on the Australian Senate enquiry into gene patents (here and most recently here), and on opinion in the Australian press (here).

From the Four Corners page relatiing to tonight's episode:
Right now across the globe there is a major legal and scientific battle raging over one simple question: should we allow individuals and corporations to patent genes? Some biotech companies say yes, claiming patents reward medical research and promote the investigation of life saving treatments. Others see it very differently, describing patenting as a biotech land-grab that's less about patients and more about greed
...
Who is right? Can the very basis of life itself be patented and sold? Is it possible that a unique gene that makes us what we are could be patented by someone we don't know and then franchised out to a major corporation?

Scary stuff!  Along with emotional content relating to the financial effects of gene patents on particular families and (or course) children, we will be interested to see whether the broadcast report itself is more balanced.

If nothing else, this story will ensure that gene patents remain in the public consciousness, and it may increase the prospects that the new parliament will re-refer this issue to the Senate Community Affairs Committee which (as we reported this morning) put its gene patent enquiry on-hold due to the recent election.

Four Courners airs tonight at 8.30pm on ABC1.  It will be replayed on ABC1 on Tuesday 7 September at 11.35pm, and on Friday and Saturday at 10.00pm and 2.30pm on ABC News 24.  It will also be available on the web via the ABC iView service, and from the Four Corners "video-on-demand" website.  (Note: the web services may not be available to overseas viewers.)

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