Walmart’s Death Grip On Groceries Is Making Life Worse For Millions Of People
More Parents Say They Won’t Vaccinate Daughters Against HPV
Organic Labels Bias Consumers Perceptions Through the ‘Health Halo Effect
Topics covered on this weeks show :
Water Collecting and Extracting
Sustainable Freedom- Surging Opposition to Agenda 21, “Sustainable Development
You Don’t ‘Own’ Your Own Genes: Researchers Raise Alarm About Loss of Individual ‘Genomic Liberty’ Due to Gene Patents
One Patented Sequence Matched More Than 91 Percent of Human Genes
Walmart’s Death Grip On Groceries Is Making Life Worse For Millions Of People (Hard Times USA)
This article was published in partnership with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Walmart’s growing control of our food system has been to intensify the rural and urban poverty that drives unhealthy food choices—In Springfield -This Midwestern city provides a chilling look at where Walmart wants to take our food system.—-Springfield is one of nearly 40 metro areas where Walmart now captures about half or more of consumer spending on groceries, according to Metro Market Studies. Springfield area residents spend just over $1 billion on groceries each year, and one of every two of those dollars flows into a Walmart cash register. The chain has 20 stores in the area and shows no signs of slowing its growth. Its latest proposal, a store just south of the city’s downtown, has provoked widespread protest. Opponents say Walmart already has an overbearing presence in the region and argue that this new store would undermine nearby grocery stores, including a 63-year-old family-owned business which still provides delivery for its elderly customers. A few days before the First Lady’s visit, the City Council voted 5-4 to approve what will be Walmart’s 21st store in the community[F1].
As Springfield goes, so goes the rest of the country, if Walmart has its way. Nationally, the retailer’s share of the grocery market now stands at 25 percent. That’s up from 4 percent just 16 years ago. Walmart’s tightening grip on the food system is unprecedented in U.S. history. Even A&P — often referred to as the Walmart of its day — accounted for only about 12 percent of grocery sales at its height in the 1940s. Its market share was kept in check in part by the federal government, which won an antitrust case against A&P in 1946. The contrast to today’s casual acceptance of Walmart’s market power could not be more stark.[F2]
Having gained more say over our food supply than Monsanto, Kraft, or Tyson, Walmart has been working overtime to present itself as a benevolent king. It has upped its donations to food pantries, reduced sodium and sugars in some of its store-brand products, and recast its relentless expansion as a solution to “food deserts.” In 2011, it pledged to build 275-300 stores “in or near” low-income communities lacking grocery stores.[F3] The Springfield store Obama visited is one of 86 such stores Walmart has since opened. Situated half a mile from the southwestern corner of a census tract identified as underserved by the USDA, the store qualifies as “near” a food desert. Other grocery stores are likewise perched on the edge of this tract. Although Walmart has made food deserts the vanguard of its PR strategy in urban areas, most of the stores the chain has built or proposed in cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. are in fact just blocks from established supermarkets, many unionized or locally owned. As it pushes into cities, Walmart’s primary aim is not to fill gaps but to grab market share.—-***
The real effect of Walmart’s takeover of our food system has been to intensify the rural and urban poverty that drives unhealthy food choices. Poverty has a strong negative effect on diet, regardless of whether there is a grocery store in the neighborhood or not, a major 15-year study published in 2011 in the Archives of Internal Medicine found. Access to fresh food cannot change the bottom-line reality that cheap, calorie-dense processed foods and fast food are financially logical choices for far too many American households. And their numbers are growing right alongside Walmart. Like Midas in reverse, Walmart extracts wealth and pushes down incomes in every community it touches, from the rural areas that produce food for its shelves to the neighborhoods that host its stores. Walmart signed a deal with Monsanto last year to sell their unlabeled GMO corn that they want you to eat.
Numerous studies show GMO corn is extremely hazardous to our health. It’s all about money ,they don’t care if you go sterile or worse. Walmart has made it harder for farmers and food workers to earn a living. Its rapid rise as a grocer triggered a wave of mergers among food companies, which, by combining forces, hoped to become big enough to supply Walmart without getting crushed in the process. Today, food processing is more concentrated than ever. Four meat packers slaughter 85 percent of the nation’s beef. One dairy company handles 40 percent of our milk, including 70 percent of the milk produced in New England. With fewer buyers, farmers are struggling to get a fair price. Between 1995 and 2009, farmers saw their share of each consumer dollar spent on beef fall from 59 to 42 cents . Their cut of the consumer milk dollar likewise fell from 44 to 36 cents. For pork, it fell from 45 to 25 cents and, for apples, from 29 to 19 cents.
Onto this grim reality, Walmart has grafted a much-publicized initiative to sell more locally grown fruits and vegetables. Clambering aboard the “buy local” trend undoubtedly helps Walmart’s marketing, but, as Missouri-based National Public Radio journalist Abbie Fentress Swanson reported  in February, “there’s little evidence of small farmers benefiting, at least in the Midwest.” Walmart, which defines “local” as grown in the same state, has increased its sales of local produce mainly by relying on large industrial growers. Small farmers, meanwhile, have fewer opportunities to reach consumers, as independent grocers and smaller chains shrink and disappear. Food production workers are being squeezed too. The average slaughterhouse wage has fallen 9 percent since 1999. Forced unpaid labor at food processing plants is on the rise. Last year, a Louisiana seafood plant that supplies Walmart was convicted of forcing employees to work in unsafe conditions for less than minimum wage. Some workers reported peeling and boiling crawfish in shifts that spanned 24 hours. The tragic irony is that many food-producing regions, with their local economies dismantled and poverty on the rise, are now themselves lacking grocery stores. The USDA has designated large swaths of the farm belt , including many agricultural areas near Springfield, as food deserts. One might imagine that squeezing farmers and food workers would yield lower prices for consumers. But that hasn’t been the case. Grocery prices have been rising. There are multiple reasons for this, but corporate concentration is at least partly to blame. For most foods, the spread between what consumers pay and how much farmers receive has been widening. Food processors and big retailers are pocketing the difference. Even as Walmart touts lower prices than its competitors, the company’s reorganization of our food system has had the effect of raising grocery prices overall. As Walmart stores multiply, fewer families can afford to eat well.[F4]
The company claims it stores bring economic development and employment, but the empirical evidence indicates otherwise. A study  published in 2008 in the Journal of Urban Economics examined about 3,000 Walmart store openings nationally and found that each store caused a net decline of about 150 jobs (as competing retailers downsized and closed) and lowered total wages paid to retail workers. Other research  by the economic consulting firm Civic Economics has found that, when locally owned businesses are replaced by big-box stores, dollars that once circulated in the community, supporting other businesses and jobs, instead leak out. These shifts may explain the findings of another study , published in Social Science Quarterly in 2006, which cut straight to the bottom line: neighborhoods where Walmart opens end up with higher poverty rates and more food-stamp usage than places where the retailer does not expand. [F5]–This year, Walmart plans to open between 220 and 240 stores in the U.S., as it marches steadily on in its quest to further control the grocery market. Policymakers at every level, from city councilors to federal antitrust regulators, should be standing in its way. Very few are. Growing numbers of people, though, are drawing the line, from the Walmart employees who have led a string of remarkable strikes against the company, to the coalition of small business, labor, and community groups that recently forced Walmart to step back  from its plans to unroll stores across New York City. –Back in Springfield, as Michelle Obama was delivering her remarks, framed by a seductive backdrop of oranges and lemons, a citizens group called Stand Up to Walmart  was also at work, launching a referendum drive to overturn the City Council’s vote and block Walmart from gaining any more ground in the city.
More Parents Say They Won’t Vaccinate Daughters Against HPV
Mar. 18, 2013 — A rising percentage of parents say they won’t have their teen daughters vaccinated to protect against the human papilloma virus, even though physicians are increasingly recommending adolescent vaccinations, a study by Mayo Clinic and others shows. More than 2 in 5 parents surveyed believe the HPV vaccine is unnecessary, and a growing number worry about potential side effects, researchers found. The findings are published in the new issue of the journal Pediatrics.—In all, researchers looked at three vaccines routinely recommended for U.S. teens: a vaccine to protect against the sexually transmitted HPV; Tdap, for tetanus, diphtheria and a cellular pertussis; and the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, or MCV4 vaccine. While the up-to-date immunization rates rose for all three vaccines, the proportion of girls fully immunized against HPV (three doses over six months) was substantially lower than the proportion for the other two vaccines. Five years ago, 40 percent of parents surveyed said they wouldn’t vaccinate their girls against HPV. In 2009, that rose to 41 percent, and in 2010, to 44 percent.”That’s the opposite direction that rate should be going,” says senior researcher Robert Jacobson, M.D., a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. Parents concerned about HPV vaccine safety rose from 5 percent in 2008 to 16 percent in 2010, while less than 1 percent worried about the safety of the Tdap and MCV4 vaccines, the study found. During the same years, more and more studies showed how safe and effective the HPV vaccine is in this age group, says Dr. Jacobson, who has taken part in the safety review committees for two such studies. The vaccine prevents cervical cancer and other genital cancers by preventing the HPV infections that lead to those cancers, he says.[F6]
Researchers analyzed vaccination data for teens ages 13 to 17 in the 2008-10 National Immunization Survey of Teens. They found that as of 2010, 8 of 10 teens had the Tdap vaccine and roughly 63 percent had the MCV4 vaccine. Only about one-third of girls were immunized against HPV. The HPV vaccination rate did rise; it was only 16 percent in 2008. But at the same time, more parents reported that they did not intend to have their daughters vaccinated for HPV. Among the reasons they gave: the vaccine was not recommended; lack of knowledge; it is unnecessary; the vaccine is inappropriate for the child’s age; worry about safety/side effects; and the child isn’t sexually active. According to parents surveyed, more clinicians are recommending the HPV vaccine, but still, they are advising it only about half the time. The facts show the vaccine is necessary, Dr. Jacobson says. “HPV causes essentially 100 percent of cervical cancer and 50 percent of all Americans get infected at least once with HPV. It’s a silent infection. You cannot tell when you’ve been exposed or when you have it,” he says. “While most HPV infections clear, a percentage linger and start the process of cancerous changes. The HPV vaccine is an anti-cancer vaccine.”[F7]
Dr. Jacobson says the vaccine is more effective in younger adolescents than older teens. Mayo Clinic routinely starts the series at age 9. “The vaccine works better the younger the child is, and it doesn’t work after the child is grown up and is exposed to the virus, so our message should be: ‘Give this vaccine now to your child while your child is young and responsive to it,'[F8]” says Dr. Jacobson, medical director of the Employee and Community Health Immunization Program at Mayo Clinic.
Study co-authors include Paul Darden, M.D., David Thompson, Ph.D., Jessica Hale, and Monique Naifeh, M.D., M.P.H., University of Oklahoma; and James Roberts, M.D., M.P.H., and Charlene Pope, Medical University of South Carolina.–Story Source-The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Mayo Clinic. Journal Reference-Paul M. Darden, David M. Thompson, James R. Roberts, Jessica J. Hale, Charlene Pope, Monique Naifeh, and Robert M. Jacobson. Reasons for Not Vaccinating Adolescents: National Immunization Survey of Teens, 2008–2010. Pediatrics, March 18, 2013 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2384
Organic Labels Bias Consumers Perceptions Through the ‘Health Halo Effect
Apr. 1, 2013 — The word “organic” can mean many things to consumers. Even so, the power of an organic label can be very strong: studies have shown that this simple label can lead us to think that a food is healthier,[F9] through what is known as the ‘health halo effect’. But can this bias go further?–A study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab researchers Wan-chen Jenny Lee, Mitsuru Shimizu, Kevin M. Kniffin and Brian Wansink set out to answer this question. Their study shows that an organic label can influence much more than health views: perceptions of taste, calories and value can be significantly altered when a food is labeled “organic.” Certain people also appear to be more susceptible to this ‘health halo’ effect than others…115 people were recruited from a local shopping mall in Ithaca, New York to participate in this study.
Participants were asked to evaluate 3 pairs of products — 2 yogurts, 2 cookies and 2 potato chip portions[F10]. One item from each food pair was labeled “organic,” while the other was labeled “regular.” The trick to this study was: all of the product pairs were organic and identical! Participants were asked to rate the taste and caloric content of each item, and how much they would be willing to pay for the items. A questionnaire also inquired about their environmental and shopping habits.[F11] Even though these foods were all the same, the “organic” label greatly influenced people’s perceptions. The cookies and yogurt were estimated to have significantly fewer calories when labeled “organic” and people were willing to pay up to 23.4% more for them. The nutritional aspects of these foods were also greatly biased by the health halo effect. The “organic” cookies and yogurt were said to taste ‘lower in fat’ than the “regular” variety, and the “organic” cookies and chips were thought to be more nutritious![F12]
The label even tricked people’s taste buds: when perceived as “organic,” chips seemed more appetizing and yogurt was judged to be more flavorful. “Regular” cookies were reported to taste better, possibly because people often believe healthy foods are not tasty. All of these foods were exactly the same, but a simple organic label made all the difference! Who is less susceptible? This study found that people who regularly read nutrition labels, those who regularly buy organic food, and those who exhibit pro-environmental behaviors (such as recycling or hiking) are less susceptible to the organic ‘health halo’ effect. So, if you do not consider yourself in one these groups, take a closer look when shopping for organic foods, they are, after all, still cookies and chips! Story Source-The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Cornell Food & Brand Lab. The original article was written by Rachel Eklund and Wan-chen Jenny Lee. Journal Reference-Wan-chen Jenny Lee, Mitsuru Shimizu, Kevin M. Kniffin, Brian Wansink. You taste what you see: Do organic labels bias taste perceptions? Food Quality and Preference, 2013; 29 (1): 33 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2013.01.010
Water Collecting and Extracting
Tree Transpiration Technique:
In the morning, dew and humidity is abundant, tie a bag around a leafy green tree, bush or shrub branch, use a twist tie or rubber band to wrap around the open end of the bag like so- In a few hours you should see water collecting at the bottom of the bag, just untie from the branch and drink! It’s important to use a leafy green tree or branch that is non-poisonous, the water will taste like whatever plant you choose. It isn’t much but is better than nothing.
Dew Container + Grass Technique:
The EASIEST way to collect water from air is just place a plastic bowl over grass in the sun, moisture will collect on the inside, when ready, lift the plastic bowl and swish the water condensation around and there you have it, free water
Below-ground Still Technique:
Another water collection technique is the below-ground Still Technique, to do this you would need a thin plastic bag, a digging tool, a water container, a drinking tube (optional) and a rock.—Find a moist area that gets a fair amount of sunlight, it’s best to use these water collection techniques in the morning when dew and humidity is abundant (if you live in a dry humid area is a plus).
1) Dig a hole in the soil about three feet across and two feet deep, make sure the top soil is green with grass and somewhat moist and soft soil, the bottom of the hole should be flat for your container.
2) Place the container in the hole.
3) Now place the plastic over the hole.
4) Cover the sides of the plastic with large rocks to keep it secure so when you place the weight on top of the plastic that it won’t collapse.
5) Now place the rock or weight in the middle just over the container, let it hang about 15-18 inches directly over the container.
The moisture from the ground reacts from the heat of the sun to produce condensation on the inside of the plastic, you can also add green leafy vegetation inside the hole for more moisture content (basically any organic material that has moisture). To collect the water, just remove the rock and grab the container. This technique can produce up to one quart of water per day.
(There are other ways to use this same technique)
If you use this belowground tehnique you should filter out any sediment that may end up in the container
What you can do is take a cool mist or hot mist humidifier—add colloidial Silver-Essential oils-Iodine-Aspirin –or anything you wish to nebulize or vapour in the air this will form a moisture or mist in the air that can assist in blocking out the frequencies you maybe getting hit with while sleeping –and may find a more restful sleep and feel less pain when awakened –due to the reducing effect this will have
Sustainable Freedom- Surging Opposition to Agenda 21, “Sustainable Development”
Alabama banned it. The Republican National Committee (RNC) officially opposes it. Even a group of Democrats has now joined the fight. And the movement to stop it is growing stronger every single day. Twenty years after the United Nations birthed the global “sustainable development” scheme known as Agenda 21, its tentacles have stretched across America into every level of government. But the battle to stop it is in full swing. While the planetary plot was never ratified by the U.S. Senate, the executive branch has played a crucial role in its success thus far, using grants and mandates to foist it on the American people. Bush, Clinton, and Obama all worked on implementing it. But now, activists from across the political spectrum — Tea Party groups, Occupy Wall Street types, Republicans, liberals, and moderates — are turning up the heat. Scientists are defecting in record numbers, too. Of course, opposition has existed all along, though it was largely ignored by the establishment press and the political class. In the United States in recent years, however, outrage over the controversial global plan has become overwhelming — impossible to conceal any longer. So in response to the growing nationwide outcry, cities, counties, political parties, and states have all started to take action to defend citizens and their rights. It is paying off; more victories are being announced almost weekly.
“Think globally, act locally” “Think globally, act locally” has been the marching slogan of the environmental Left for many years, as its partisans have worked to fasten, incrementally, more and more of Agenda 21’s global mandates on local communities. In the past few years, opponents of Agenda 21 have gone to the same playbook. Local governments, for example, are withdrawing en masse from the UN’s chief mechanism for foisting the plan on communities: ICLEI-Local Governments for Local Environmental Initiatives — formerly known as the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives. Dozens of cities and counties have already withdrawn from ICLEI in recent years. In fact, membership in the international organization has declined from over 600 local governments in America in 2009 to well under 550 today. And a new wave of withdrawals is expected in 2012 as public outrage over the schemes and the dangers they represent to freedom continues to build. “This organization is a threat to our individual rights and our local government’s sovereignty in decision-making,” noted College Station, Texas, City Councilman Jess Fields when announcing that the local government was withdrawing from ICLEI, citing UN documents to highlight the danger. “It is an insidious, extreme institution that does not represent our citizens, and for our taxpayers to continue to fund it would be ridiculous.”
“We do not need international organizations leading the way for us in how we develop our planning and development tools and regulations,” Fields added. “It is better for policies to reflect the actual needs of our community than some amorphous concept of greenness or sustainability, promoted by an overarching international body.” Shortly after College Station’s withdrawal, Irving, Texas, also dropped its membership. “Agenda 21 is becoming a hot issue in Texas because of its connection to the United Nations,” noted activist Frank Koch, founder of the grass-roots group Stop Agenda 21 in Texas working to expose and fight the UN scheme in the Lone Star State. “I applaud Irving, Texas, for having the wisdom to join the growing number of cities rejecting this insidious program.”Ocean County, New Jersey, rejected the scheme recently as well. “According to Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth,” county lawmakers said in a resolution slamming ICLEI and the UN.
Statement by States
State officials all across the country, meanwhile, are fighting back as well. Alabama recently became the first state to formally ban Agenda 21 within its territory, when Governor Robert Bentley signed into law strongly worded legislation prohibiting any involvement in the scheme by state agencies or local governments. The legislation was passed unanimously in both the Alabama House and Senate. “The State of Alabama and all political subdivisions may not adopt or implement policy recommendations that deliberately or inadvertently infringe or restrict private property rights without due process, as may be required by policy recommendations originating in, or traceable to ‘Agenda 21,’” the law states. The people of Alabama, acting through their elected representatives — not UN bureaucrats — have the authority to develop the state’s environmental and development policies, the official synopsis of the law explains. Therefore, infringements on the property rights of citizens linked to “any other international law or ancillary plan of action that contravenes the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Alabama” are also prohibited under the new measure.
As the law points out, the UN has enlisted a broad array of non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations in its effort to foist Agenda 21 on the world, most notably the Germany-based ICLEI. But the new measure takes direct aim at that problem, too: “The State of Alabama and all political subdivisions may not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, or receive funds contracting services, or giving financial aid to or from” any such entities, as defined in Agenda 21 documents. Responding to an article about the new law, popular U.K. Telegraph columnist James Delingpole said Alabama had just “helped save the world” with its victory against Agenda 21. Citing Delingpole’s piece, Investor’s Business Daily said in an editorial: “Alabama has just told the U.N. and the EPA what they need to be told — don’t tread on us.” The alternative media, of course, praised the landmark achievement as well.
Before Alabama adopted its tough law, lawmakers in Arizona almost succeeded in adopting a similar measure. The popular bill would have prohibited all state agencies and political subdivisions from implementing or supporting any portion of the UN’s so-called “sustainable development” scheme. After being approved by the state Senate, it cleared several initial hurdles in Arizona’s House of Representatives. The legislative session, however, ended before the measure obtained final approval.
Tennessee recently adopted a strongly worded resolution slamming the UN scheme as “insidious” and “socialist.” “This United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called ‘sustainable development’ views the American way of life of private property ownership, single-family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms all as destructive to the environment,” the resolution explains. “We hereby endorse rejection of its radical policies and rejection of any grant monies attached to it.”
Kansas, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Louisiana, and numerous other state legislatures are also working on similar anti-Agenda 21 measures.
Going Forward, The RNC adopted a strongly worded resolution slamming Agenda 21. “The United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control,” it states, noting that the scheme would — by its own admission in official documents — use “socialist” and “communist” redistribution of wealth to advance the UN’s vision of so-called “social justice.” “The Republican National Committee recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21 and hereby exposes to the public and public policy makers the dangerous intent of the plan,” it added. Numerous state parties followed suit. The Texas GOP, for example, passed a resolution denouncing Agenda 21 as a serious threat to the U.S. Constitution, the individual rights of Americans, and the institution of private property.
On June 2, North Carolina’s GOP also adopted a resolution. A broad array of activists and organizations ranging from Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 to The John Birch Society, Americans for Prosperity, Tom DeWeese’s American Policy Center, and numerous other conservative and libertarian groups has put the UN scheme on the map. And candidates for office all across the land, from city and county government to state legislatures, to governor (North Carolina) to the U.S. Senate (Texas), have made opposition to Agenda 21 a focal point of their campaigns. Former Charlotte, North Carolina, Mayor Pat McCrory, who is now the Republican candidate for governor of the Tar Heel State, says he is “proud to support” the NCGOP’s resolution against Agenda 21.
“Under the guise of world sustainability the plan establishes a regime of rules that attempt[s] to bypass Congress and the American people, handing … power over vast areas of the US economy to unelected UN bureaucrats,” said insurgent Tea Party Republican Ted Cruz, a leading contender in Texas’ U.S. Senate race. “Agenda 21 is wrong, and it must be stopped.”
When asked by The New American at Rio+20 about the growing U.S. opposition and Alabama’s latest prohibition in particular, ICLEI President David Cadman seemed perplexed. “I haven’t seen that about Alabama, and I’m quite surprised about that,” he said, adding that he did not think states could pass such laws.
On the growing backlash against “sustainability” more generally, Cadman also sounded somewhat confused. “I’ve got to confess I don’t really understand the Tea Party…. We find that [opposition] nowhere else but in America,” he said. “I think, quite frankly, a lot of that is because America is not well served by its media…. There are times when I’ll turn on Fox News, and I’ll say, ‘This wouldn’t be allowed in Canada,’” Cadman added, pointing to Canadian laws that force media outlets to give “both sides of the story.”[F13] My Comment here – this fellow is smoking a drug of illusion, reality, the establishment press and an assortment of attack dogs including UN-funded propaganda organs and the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center are fighting back hard against the opposition. But each time Agenda 21 critics are attacked, a tsunami of activists exposing the UN scheme flood the article’s comment section with links to the global body’s documents. And, perhaps more importantly, awareness of the global plan spreads even further — with the growing resistance that entails.
You Don’t ‘Own’ Your Own Genes- Researchers Raise Alarm About Loss of Individual ‘Genomic Liberty’ Due to Gene Patents
Mar. 25, 2013 — Humans don’t “own” their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases they might be at risk for. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual “genomic liberty.”In their new analysis, the research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered that 41 percent of the human genome is covered by longer DNA patents that often cover whole genes. They also found that, because many genes share similar sequences within their genetic structure, if all of the “short sequence” patents were allowed in aggregate, they could account for 100 percent of the genome.
Furthermore, the study’s lead author, Dr. Christopher E. Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College, and the study’s co-author, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and a member of the High Performance and Research Computing Group, found that short sequences from patents also cover virtually the entire genome — even outside of genes.”If these patents are enforced, our genomic liberty is lost,” says Dr. Mason, an assistant professor of physiology and biophysics and computational genomics in computational biomedicine at the Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell. “Just as we enter the era of personalized medicine, we are ironically living in the most restrictive age of genomics. You have to ask, how is it possible that my doctor cannot look at my DNA without being concerned about patent infringement?”The U.S. Supreme Court will review genomic patent rights in an upcoming hearing on April 15. At issue is the right of a molecular diagnostic company to claim patents not only on two key breast and ovarian cancer genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — but also on any small sequence of code within BRCA1, including a striking patent for only 15 nucleotides, In its study, the research team matched small sequences within BRCA1 to other genes and found that just this one molecular diagnostic company’s patents also covered at least 689 other human genes — most of which have nothing to do with breast or ovarian cancer; rather, its patents cover 19 other cancers as well as genes involved in brain development and heart functioning.—“This means if the Supreme Court upholds the current scope of the patents, no physician or researcher can study the DNA of these genes from their patients, and no diagnostic test or drug can be developed based on any of these genes without infringing a patent,” says Dr. Mason.
One Patented Sequence Matched More Than 91 Percent of Human Genes
Dr. Mason undertook the study because he realized that his research into brain and cancer disorders inevitably involved studying genes that were protected by patents. Under U.S. patent law, genes can be patented by those researchers, either at companies or institutions, who are first to find a gene that promises a useful application, such as for a diagnostic test. For example, the patents received by a company in the 1990s on BRCA1 and BRCA2 enables it to offer a diagnostic test to women who may have, or may be at risk for, breast or ovarian cancer due to mutations in one or both of these genes. Women and their doctors have no choice but to use the services of the patents’ owner, which costs $3,000 per test, “whereas any of the hundreds of clinical laboratories around the country could perform such a test for possibly much less,” says Dr. Mason.
The impact on these patents is equally onerous on research,[F14] Dr. Mason adds. “Almost every day, I come across a gene that is patented — a situation that is common for every geneticist in every lab,” says Dr. Mason. Dr. Mason and his research partner sought to determine how many other genes may be impacted by gene patents, as well as the overall landscape of intellectual property on the human genome. To conduct the study, Dr. Mason and Dr. Rosenfeld examined the structure of the human genome in the context of two types of patented sequences: short and long fragments of DNA. They used matches to known genes that were confirmed to be present in patent claims, ranging from as few as 15 nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA) to the full length of all patented DNA fragments. Before examining the patented sequences, the researchers first calculated how many genes had common segments of 15 nucleotide (15mer), and found that every gene in the human genome matched at least one other gene in this respect, ranging from as few as five matches 15mer to as many as 7,688 gene matches. They also discovered that 99.999 percent of 15mers in the human genome are repeated at least twice. “This demonstrates that short patent sequences are extremely non-specific and that a 15mer claim from one gene will always cross-match and patent a portion of another gene as well,” says Dr. Mason. “This means it is actually impossible to have a 15mer patent for just one gene.”Next, researchers examined the total sequence space in human genes covered by 15mers in current patent claims. They found 58 patents whose claims covered at least 10 percent of all bases of all human genes. The broadest patent claimed sequences that matched 91.5 percent of human genes. Then, when they took existing gene patents and matched patented 15mers to known genes, they discovered that 100 percent of known genes are patented. “There is a real controversy regarding gene ownership due to the overlap of many competing patent claims. It is unclear who really owns the rights to any gene,” says Dr. Rosenfeld. “While the Supreme Court is hearing one case concerning just the BRCA1 patent, there are also many other patents whose claims would cover those same genes. Do we need to go through every gene to look at who made the first claim to that gene, even if only one small part? If we resort to this rule, then the first patents to be granted for any DNA will have a vast claim over portions of the human genome.”A further issue of concern is that patents on DNA can readily cross species boundaries. A company can have a patent that they received for cow breeding and have that patent cover a large percentage of human genes.
Indeed, the researchers found that one company owns the rights to 84 percent of all human genes for a patent they received for cow breeding. “It seems silly that a patent designed to study cow genetics also claims the majority of human genes,” says Dr. Rosenfeld. Finally, they also examined the impact of longer claimed DNA sequences from existing gene patents, which ranged from a few dozen bases up to thousands of bases of DNA, and found that these long, claimed sequences matched 41 percent (9,361) of human genes. Their analysis concluded that almost all clinically relevant genes have already been patented, especially for short sequence patents, showing all human genes are patented many times over. “This is, so to speak, patently ridiculous,” adds Dr. Mason. “If patent claims that use these small DNA sequences are upheld, it could potentially create a situation where a piece of every gene in the human genome is patented by a phalanx of competing patents.”In their discussion, the researchers argue that the U.S. Supreme Court now has a chance to shape the balance between the medical good versus inventor protection, adding that, in their opinion, the court should limit the patenting of existing nucleotide sequences, due to their broad scope and non-specificity in the human genome.-“I am extremely pro-patent, but I simply believe that people should not be able to patent a product of nature,” Dr. Mason says. “Moreover, I believe that individuals have an innate right to their own genome, or to allow their doctor to look at that genome, just like the lungs or kidneys. Failure to resolve these ambiguities perpetuates a direct threat to genomic liberty, or the right to one’s own DNA.”—Story Source-The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Weill Cornell Medical College. — Journal Reference-Jeffrey Rosenfeld, and Christopher E Mason. Pervasive sequence patents cover the entire human genome. Genome Medicine, 2013 (in press) DOI: 10.1186/gm431