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Google Accused of Bio-piracy

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the ahoy-maties-turn-over-those-ribonucleic-acids-if-you-please dept.

248

Simon Phillips writes "ZDNet is reporting that Google has been accused of being the 'biggest threat to genetic privacy' this year for its plan to create a searchable database of genetic information. From the article: 'Google was presented with an award as part of the Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy in Curitiba, Brazil, this week. The organisers allege that Google's collaboration with genomic research institute J. Craig Venter to create a searchable online database of all the genes on the planet is a clear example of biopiracy.'"

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248 comments

Torrents. (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 8 years ago | (#15025958)

OK, if theres piracy going on, wheres the torrent stream?

Re:Torrents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026259)

In other news, the MPAA & RIAA have sent several John Doe lawsuits to Google's ISP claiming they've lost billions due to Google's piracy.

Stupid. (5, Insightful)

tpgp (48001) | about 8 years ago | (#15025962)

From the about the award [captainhookawards.org] pages:
Biopiracy refers to the monopolization of genetic resources such as seeds and genes taken from the peoples or farming communities that have nurtured those resources. It also refers to the theft of traditional knowledge from those cultures.
And the page explaining why Google was nominated. [captainhookawards.org]

Nonetheless a recent internal video released from the Googleplex shows that the company are still very actively pursuing the goal of putting genomic information online for free.
So. Google is monopolizing genetic resources by putting genetic information online for free?

There are much better things to go after google for if you don't like them (*cough*censorhip*in*China*France*Germany*US*Unwar rented*Patents*cough) and far better companies to go after for biopiracy (What a stupid term).

The monopolization of genetic information is a serious issue - people are trying to do stupid things - like attempting to apply copy protection measures (both physical and legal) to life. Life attempts to copy itself & tradional copyright / patent laws should not apply.

Unfortunately, these awards look like shameless self-promotion rather then a serious attempt to tackle the problem.

Yup. Sounds to me... (5, Insightful)

schon (31600) | about 8 years ago | (#15025989)

Google is monopolizing genetic resources by putting genetic information online for free?

Sounds to me like these guys are a bunch of kooks who are attacking any large company who uses the words "genetic" and "database" in the same sentence.

Google is one of the biggest, so they automatically attack.

Re:Yup. Sounds to me... (5, Funny)

networkBoy (774728) | about 8 years ago | (#15026047)

Best explanation I could think of as well.
I read this and said WTF?
then I read teh story and said WTF?
then I read your comment and said Ahhh!
-nB

Re:Yup. Sounds to me... (1)

orangesquid (79734) | about 8 years ago | (#15026119)

Yeah... genes shouldn't be private things (copyrighted by corporations), but I don't think they have to be hidden things (unresearched and unpublished). Google wants to make a public database. what's wrong with that? What's wrong with _any_ public proliferation of information about what's inside our bodies (speaking generically, I wouldn't want *my* exact genes being pubilshed next to my name and SSN)?

Re:Yup. Sounds to me... (1)

networkBoy (774728) | about 8 years ago | (#15026304)

As far as I'm concerned you could do that to me (aside from the SSN for other reasons).
I would kinda like to be "the genome guy"

In any case... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 8 years ago | (#15026185)

There is still an issue (morally speaking) as to whether it is "piracy".

Sure, some craniorectally inverted companies have taken out patents on a plethora of genetic sequences, but whether they have any right to do so is another matter altogether.

Re:In any case... (1)

schon (31600) | about 8 years ago | (#15026218)

There is still an issue (morally speaking) as to whether it is "piracy".

Not really.

some craniorectally inverted companies have taken out patents on a plethora of genetic sequences, but whether they have any right to do so is another matter altogether.

Considering "it" is not being done by Google, the issue is irrelevant.

DRM my ass (2, Funny)

Karoshi (241344) | about 8 years ago | (#15026060)

One day, I won't be allowed to take a dump 'cause I forgot to renew the license to use my biological disposal unit.

Re:DRM my ass (2, Funny)

TopShelf (92521) | about 8 years ago | (#15026164)

Leaving a dump in the can is fine, but I would think that taking someone else's dump would clearly be biopiracy...

Re:DRM my ass (1)

LouisZepher (643097) | about 8 years ago | (#15026425)

As George Carlin once said: "Just don't take one of mine, I only have three left and the weekend is coming up!"

Re:DRM my ass (1)

LouisZepher (643097) | about 8 years ago | (#15026399)

Just be sure to renew that license before that trip to Bethselamin. I hear the fees there cost an arm and a leg.

Aaargghhh! (1)

jefu (53450) | about 8 years ago | (#15026122)

I suspect that they're associating Google with "piracy" because of the "theft of traditional knowledge" part of things. The question is, in how many of those cases did Google actually "steal" any of that knowledge? Isn't it more likely that Google is just making public knowledge that someone else has already "stolen"? In which case the award is not for Google having "stolen" the information, but rather for Google making public the results of the "theft" ? Would it really be better if the people who "stole" the information have exclusive and private use of that information??? (Yes, those are sneer quotes in that exact sense of the word.)

Re:Stupid. (1)

arminw (717974) | about 8 years ago | (#15026129)

......people are trying to do stupid things.....

I just patented a molecule. I has two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. It has been known in the past as "water". Anyone who uses it in any form owes me royalties. I also have a patent pending on unique arrangements of protons, neutrons and electrons in 92 distinct groupings. I expect to get a patent soon and then collect money from everybody for EVERYTHING that uses any of these.

Re:Stupid. (3, Funny)

Irish_Samurai (224931) | about 8 years ago | (#15026216)

I think I already own that patent. Dihydromonoxysomething or other. I don't know what it's called, my lawyer told me to do it.

Re:Stupid. (1)

Zarel (900479) | about 8 years ago | (#15026343)

From the nomination:
Google are reportedly making their massive computing power available to the J Craig Venter Foundation for gene sequencing to generate a gene catalogue for all the genes on the planet. Individual users will then input their own genetic sequence for a read out of their genetic predispositions analyzed against the existing database.
Evidently, what they're doing is, they have a database, and then you input your genetic information, then it tells you what it knows about you from the database (for example, your risk for heart disease, etc).

Re:Stupid. (3, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 8 years ago | (#15026367)

Note the second sentence you quoted: "It also refers to the theft of traditional knowledge from those cultures."

"Theft of knowledge" is, of course, a term which refers to "intellectual property", except that here obvioulsy a "collective IP" held by a culture is assumed. Google is obviously accused for violating this second part.

But independent of what one may think about the concepts of IP in general, and of the concept of IP held by a culture in particular, there's a nice contradiction in the very definition:

The first sentence states that monopolization of that knowledge is bad. The second one states that not granting a monopoly to those cultures is bad.

In short, the term "biopiracy" is ill-defined.

"online" versus "openly available" (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 8 years ago | (#15026383)

Unfortunately, for all Google's talk of being Open-Source/Free Software friendly, they either don't get, or, more likely, don't WANT to get, the need for openness of data formats. Google Video puts videos "online", and makes them searchable. However, if you can't cut up that video and use it in your own videoblog or cable tv show or artistic video montage, then it's really not "available" to you or to the online culture to build on. It might as well be playing behind glass in a shop window, even if you do pay for it.

Re:Stupid. (1)

galgon (675813) | about 8 years ago | (#15026430)

Yes, people are patenting genes and methods of finding genes. Do I agree with it, not really, but the argument is that allowing these types of patents has helped build the biotechnology business. However, the patent holders cannot be upset by google searching this information since a patent is A PUBLIC RECORD. Hop on over to the USPTO and you can search genes to your hearts content.

I think what the article is saying is that google will soon be indexing the genetic information of a large amount of people. Then at some point in the future if you google John Doe at 123 Fake St. you will not only get a live satellite view of his home but his entire DNA strand as well.

This will never happen and I really do not know why they are worried about it.

Bio-piracy? (4, Insightful)

Uber Banker (655221) | about 8 years ago | (#15025970)

I can understand the meaning of pirate as in someone who sails the seas and acts in piracy - stealing others' belongs by force.

I recognise the notion of piracy as in copying material which has been copyrighted, conducted by a 'pirate'. But I prefer the term copyright infringement.

But what the heck is 'Bio-piracy'? Because privacy and piracy sound vaguely familiar isn't reason enough, IMHO. Naming the awards 'the Captain Hook awards' seems even more facetious.

From TFA, "Google, in cooperation with Craig Venter, are developing plans to make all of our genomes Googlable to facilitate the brave new world of private genetically-tailored medicines" does not equal piracy, IMHO.

And to tackle their argument, they have not outlined why genetically tailored medicines are bad, not why holding them in private hands is wrong. And private means exactly what? The copyright to GNU/Linux is held in private hands. And Google giving public access to work done by the human genome sequence project seems a lot better than letting all research in the hands of a very small amount of drug companies, those that are most interested in profiting from keeping information 'secret'.

Re:Bio-piracy? (1)

Intron (870560) | about 8 years ago | (#15026061)

In present usage, content controllers apply the term "pirate" to anyone who copies or makes available the content that they wish to control. They can't use the term "theft" since that implies tangible property. Likewise, copyright infringement doesn't cover the fair use and media conversion cases that the content controllers also wish to eliminate. So pirates seems to be the term we are stuck with.

Re:Bio-piracy? The anti-Robin Hood (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026125)

Bio-piracy is about taking from the poor and giving to the rich.

Re:Bio-piracy? (2, Funny)

RevDobbs (313888) | about 8 years ago | (#15026147)

No worries, dude, everyone knows that Ninjas are Pirate's natural enemies, and those Code Ninjas at Google are top notch.

Re:Bio-piracy? (1)

Billosaur (927319) | about 8 years ago | (#15026253)

But what the heck is 'Bio-piracy'? Because privacy and piracy sound vaguely familiar isn't reason enough, IMHO. Naming the awards 'the Captain Hook awards' seems even more facetious.

Avast there! Hand over your tissue samples, you scurvy lubbers! Yeargh! This one seems a fine, strapping specimen! Take her ovaries, Maties!

Biopiracy makes no sense. Genes are genes -- you can take the essential building blocks of them and mix and match them to your heart's content. The number of combinations available is staggering. They make it sound like no one has a right to do with their genetic material as they please.

Avast! (2, Interesting)

GundamFan (848341) | about 8 years ago | (#15025975)

Biopiracy? doesn't that imply theft? how are they getting this genetic material? O.o

Re:Avast! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026300)

By rooting through your trash, obviously. Google sells all your credit card applications to the highest bidder and takes all your DNA samples for themselves! They must be stop.

I don't get it (3, Insightful)

the_humeister (922869) | about 8 years ago | (#15025980)

The information is being put out for "free." (advertiser supported). But wouldn't this actually be a boon for research scientists? Better searches than BLAST maybe?

Time for a motto change? (-1)

Dante Shamest (813622) | about 8 years ago | (#15025982)

Did No Evil.

Re:Time for a motto change? (1)

Jugalator (259273) | about 8 years ago | (#15026385)

And here I'm still trying to figure out why this is 1) piracy and why this 2) would be evil...

Since you obviously know, I wouldn't mind at least some elaboration. :-/

correct me if i'm wrong (4, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | about 8 years ago | (#15025984)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you are someone with the resources to even do anything with this type of information, you will most likely be able to obtain it through sources other than Google.

Re:correct me if i'm wrong (1)

lief79 (880936) | about 8 years ago | (#15026192)

There is an unbelievable amount of data there to be searched, and Google has some experience in that area. Since Google lets its employees work on anything they want to in 20% of their time, and Google is known for having very talented employees, this has the potential to become a very useful tool quite rapidly. Since it is such a new area, they could also offer extra tools, or a commercial API in order to make their money back rather quickly, while still offering a much better ROI then anything else thats out there. This is coming from someone who dabbled with research in the field a little 4 years ago in college. Things have changed since then, but less than you might expect.

What the frell? Genetic info? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15025995)

Isn't April 1 TOMORROW?

Re:What the frell? Genetic info? (1)

codegen (103601) | about 8 years ago | (#15026008)

Isn't April 1 TOMORROW?
March has 31 days

Re:What the frell? Genetic info? (1)

alexhs (877055) | about 8 years ago | (#15026075)

March has 31 days

I think it's already the 31 in New-Zealand for example.
Those damned timezones !

Re:What the frell? Genetic info? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026123)

OWNED.

Wait a minute (2, Insightful)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about 8 years ago | (#15026006)

Are these guys worried about genes of individual people being searched, or privately owned, corperate made|discovered genes?

If it is the latter, I don't see a problem.

Re:Wait a minute (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | about 8 years ago | (#15026092)

Are these guys worried about genes of individual people being searched, or privately owned, corperate made|discovered genes? p. Some nations believe they can make more money (which of course will only be carefully spent on their people) by claiming ownership of the molecular strucure of anything living within their borders. If some plant is found to have even the slightest medical application, they wish to claim rights to the process. They wish to lcie3nse people to search for such plants - even if you can buy them in the local market.

I don't understand (5, Insightful)

wetfeetl33t (935949) | about 8 years ago | (#15026009)

Why is it that when a company makes information private, they are considered greedy and secretive, but when a company makes information freely accessible over the internet, they are considered pirates?

They're a bunch of lawyers looking for a pay day. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026103)

They appear to be a bunch of lawyers trying to get a pay off from the pharmacuetical companies.

Not much new here, really.

Re:I don't understand (1)

garver (30881) | about 8 years ago | (#15026418)

Correction: When a company makes secrets other than their own accessible over the internet, they are considered pirates.

In the middle, you have the companies that make only their own secrets freely accessible over the internet. These companies are usually respected and easy to work with.

What do Bio-pirates say? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026012)

I guess they're after some Yarrr-NA.

Ouch, sorry about that :)

Where's the Competition? (2, Informative)

JoshDM (741866) | about 8 years ago | (#15026024)

We're gonna need the BioNinjas and BioZombies to come kick Google's @$$.

First they ignored Google... (1)

iamdead (964713) | about 8 years ago | (#15026027)

...then they laughed at Google, now they fight Google, but eventually Google wins... It's the fight part at the moment... or has Google already won?

pure spin (1)

airuck (300354) | about 8 years ago | (#15026034)

1. gene sequences
2. google
3. big pharma
4. profit!

Except that genbank already does that for free.
The ultimate gatekeeper of your genetic privacy is YOU. What isn't in the database can not be googled.

Riiiight, so... (4, Insightful)

AEther141 (585834) | about 8 years ago | (#15026037)

Making data publicly available at no charge is evil and advancing the privatisation of genetic data. That makes sense. Torvalds, Cox and Stallman must be evil for all that Free software. The Gutenberg Project must be pure evil for making all that literature publicly available - who knows what Evil Corporations(TM) might do with that information? Seems to me that this 'bio-piracy' malarkey is a thinly veiled primitivist agenda.

Re:Riiiight, so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026225)

Don't mix up genomic information which is the already existing code of real human beings, plants, animals, micro-organisms etc with the invented code of computer programs. Stallman et all created an invention and gave it away for free. Venter and google are talking about appropriating the existing code that makes us all individuals and giving it away - they didn't invent it - evolution did that.

Re:Riiiight, so... (1)

AEther141 (585834) | about 8 years ago | (#15026289)

So you'd rather no-one had access to genomic data? You'd rather we ignore the most promising development in medicine in our history because of some comical, pissant 'privacy concerns' or some primitivist anti-science agenda? What the hell are you thinking? Really, what is going on in your head?

Re:Riiiight, so... (1)

will_die (586523) | about 8 years ago | (#15026316)

Stallman is a big supporter of attacking companies that do biopiracy.
If you goto his Home Page [stallman.org] he has an article right next to the Boycott Harry Potter books article.

RE: need a new keyboard... again. (4, Insightful)

fshalor (133678) | about 8 years ago | (#15026038)


This made me spit out my coffee... Arrrrg!

There's a balance between communication and proliferation. There really is.

If a person is being tested for a degree on material, they shouldn't have access to the answers. But if a person is working in the field, they *should*. And if a person is curious, they probably should too.

This is just taking it too far. There may be justifiable reasons why evil corperation X in country Z shouldn't have access to information Gamma, but what real difference will it make if they can google for it. There's a much greater chance of them screwing something up if they're evil than getting something right.

Weight that against the 1000's of corperations/individuals/research groups also looking at information Gamma and doing something promising, and google is, on average, doing a good service.

I have to google for facts that make our research institute run literally daily. Usually its simple stuff like " what the hell is bentonite and how much can we put in this beaker without breaking something." or "what the heck is this photoflo stuff. It works great for this demonstration experiment, but we can't find the bottle..." a short google later, and we have a home brew wetting agent made, in the tank, and making the flow over a glass edge laminar just as we wanted.

Biopiracy? Please: Communication is a *vital* part of the scientific method. Shure, 1/1000 it might bite someone in the ass. But without modern communication pathways, we wouldn't have all these cool toys or long lives in which to buy more toys.

Re: need a new keyboard... again. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026146)

You run your research lab based on facts from Google?

The first thing you learn, is the internet is not a reliable source of research information. Have fun on the day you do that google for how much bentonite to put into the beaker, and find out the paper you got it from on the internet was only a draft, not peer reviewed, and had a decimal point in the wrong place.

Biopiracy:3rd World == Music Piracy:RIAA (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026039)

How the same people that go and bitch about the RIAA labelling things as music piracy can turn around and embrace the same concept when it applies to the underdog rather than the establishment is beyond me.

Sure, one can say that it isn't fair that the RIAA gets away with it but Venezuela does not. That is 100% correct. But when one embraces the propaganda techniques of the enemy when it can be used to defend the underdogs serves nothing other than to discredit us. And not to mention, it does nothing to further the cause.

Correct me if I'm wrong... (2, Interesting)

Machina Fortuno (963320) | about 8 years ago | (#15026052)

I mean really though. If I were them I would be welcoming Google.

Increased interest in a project such as the Genome project would help, correct? And what is there to steal really? And who is going to care... I highly doubt that the kind of people who would download part of the Genome project and the people who download movies illegal are anywhere near the same breed. Sometimes I think people are just picking on Google, hehe. Google is simply going for their mission statement I suppose... I think it would be pretty crazy to have a public database of all of this shit. Haha, maybe the scientists don't really have anything anyways, and are doing this to cover it up :P. Like they just sat around playing with cats and never leanred anything, rofl.

and yes, "bio-piracy" sounds like possibly the dumbest term to ever be filed against Google.

Re:Correct me if I'm wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026130)

I mean really though. If I were them I would be welcoming Google.

No. Google is profitable. Therefore these kooks are duty bound to not welcome them.

What biopiracy is about. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026059)

For all those saying "what the heck is wrong with giving it away", here's what biopiracy is all about.

The indigenous people of a region currently not well explored by scientists tend to know the uses of local plants and animals very well, they know what to take for a headache, or which frog not to eat etc. Then this happens:

1) scientists arrive, asking lots of questions.
2) scientists take lots of samples, then leave.
3) scientists patent the useful genetic material found.
4) PROFIT! (but just for the scientists, nothing for the people who told them where to look).

OK, so google isn't being this bad, but it is trying to exploit the knowledge of other people without paying for it.

Re:What biopiracy is about. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026182)

If the natives feel like they are exploited, why don't they just shut up. There's no reason to tell anything to the eVil scientists.

Your post is the same nonsense that is repeated all over the place, one man getting rich makes all the other poorer. Learn some basic economics and be enlightened how our well-being benefits others.

"We can't cure your Alzheimer because native people in Venezuela feel bad about their precious plants being studied"

Fuck the indians, they hacked my webserver and left there some apache-tribe related page...

What a load of crap! (3, Insightful)

radiumhahn (631215) | about 8 years ago | (#15026067)

There are billions of years of prior art. And the argument that know one would research them otherwise is crap to... First to market in the drug world is the driving force. Even if... does that mean people can patent translated segments of ancient languages if they read them first? These people should cram grapes in their noses!

Piracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026074)

A web site about piracy using a literary character that might be copywrited thus themselves commiting an act of piracy?

They got it backwards (3, Insightful)

Drachasor (723880) | about 8 years ago | (#15026085)

Huh...and I thought patenting genes (including ones the appear in MY body) was the real example of biopiracy.

What Google is planning certainly isn't going to stifle innovation like gene patents will--for if lack of patents ever harmed research governments can and would supply funds for researchers.

Two days early (3, Funny)

Theovon (109752) | about 8 years ago | (#15026113)

Looks like one of the April fools stories slipped in a bit early.

People leave their DNA and finger prints wherever they go, and the law is clear that whatever you leave behind is up for grabs. Where is the piracy in making an online searchable database of public-domain information?

a little more info (1)

dialogue22 (964719) | about 8 years ago | (#15026150)

Google's motto, "Don't be Evil," may soon take a backseat to a new mission statement unveiled by CEO Eric Schmidt in early March 2006: "We want to be able to store everybody's information all the time."(9) Already causing concern over the way it uses (or could use) the vast amount of Google-user information it has collected and stored over the years, the company has now set the sights of its all-seeing eyes even higher. Google's massive computer power and cutting-edge data-mining capacity make it a logical partner for Venter and his ever-expanding collection of DNA samples taken from humans, animals and microbes that live in soil, sea and air. In The Google Story, the 2005 book by Mark Malseed and David A. Vise, Venter referred to the pairing of a giant search engine and massive amounts of genomic data as "the ultimate intersection of technology and health." Venter expects that the details of one's genetic code "should be broadly available through a service like Google within a decade."(10) Since the publication of The Google Story, however, Google has downplayed its role in the project, perhaps because the ethical issues related to genetic privacy are even stickier than the cyber-privacy issues currently bogging down the company.

P.R. (2, Interesting)

stacybro (757940) | about 8 years ago | (#15026167)

This has got to be P.R. hooha. Somebody said: "How can we get some free P.R.? Lets attack somebody huge, pretend we are oppressed and maybe end up on slashdot..."

This is an extremely complex issue (3, Interesting)

DaoudaW (533025) | about 8 years ago | (#15026175)

  1. Biopiracy isn't primarily about the human genome.
  2. Information wants to be free.
  3. Indigenous populations have created/discovered many plant varieties useful for pharmaceuticals.
  4. Plant varieties found in indigenous agriculture often have disease resistance or other desirable characteristics which modern hybrids have lost.
  5. When someone has something of value from which you can profit, you should be willing to share the profit with them.

... from which many ethical and legal issues can and do arise.

TGFG (3, Interesting)

Pedrito (94783) | about 8 years ago | (#15026223)

Thank God For Google. They seem to be one of the few companies that actually gets the fact that information wants to be free. On top of which, it's just absolutely absurd that ANYONE other than God can get a patent on genetic sequences. It kind of reminds me of that old joke, "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first make an apple." Anyone who can do that deserves to get the patent for the genetic sequence of an apple.

That's kind of like getting a patent for the number pi. That would actually be a good one. If you have the patent to the decimal sequence that makes up pi, you could really argue that you have a patent on everything, including every genetic sequence. Theoretically, pi will contain every conceivable sequence of digits somewhere in its infinitely long sequencey and thus, anything that can be encoded as a sequence of digits (movies, music, books, genes), can be found somewhere in pi. Therefore, the patent holder for pi is the patent holder for everything. QED.

Re:TGFG (1)

dialogue22 (964719) | about 8 years ago | (#15026315)

Food for thought my friend... A concise history of patent monopoly

The rallying cry "no patents on life" has become a line in a technological and legal sandstorm. Although the notion of intellectual monopolies can be traced back to early Greece, patents did not come into their own until Britain's Industrial Revolution when the inventors of textile machinery demanded "protection." Recognizing that patents would make technology accessible only to well-heeled manufacturers, smaller enterprises protested. The response: "Don't worry. We only seek to patent the machines we invented."

In the 1920s and 30s, when rose and chrysanthemum breeders demanded intellectual property for their flowers, they argued that it was unfair to grant patents to machine inventors but to deny equal rights to ornamental inventors. Although some were repelled by the idea that living things could be patented, the flower companies replied, "Don't worry. These patents protect only decorative plants - not food crops."

In the 1960s, when plant breeders called upon governments to grant them intellectual property over food crops, they said it was unfair to recognize the minor contributions of ornamental breeders without recognizing the contributions of the breeders of crop varieties. The companies chided their critics by saying, "Don't be alarmed. We just want breeders' rights to protect plant varieties; we're not patenting plants, animals or human genetic material, and we would never stop farmers from saving seed."

In 1980, the Gene Giants won patents on genetically modified microbes. A few years later they applied for patents on plants and animals. When civil society protested, industry responded, "Why all the fuss? If you allow the patenting of micro-organisms, why not plants and lab rats?"

In the 1990s, corporations and governments began to patent genes, snippets of DNA, and entire human cell lines. When indigenous peoples protested, patent offices responded, "Don't worry. Human cell lines are just microorganisms."

Meanwhile, patents made it illegal for farmers to save and re-use proprietary seed. The seed/biotech industry denounced the 12,000-year old right of farmers to save harvested seed as patent infringement.

With the advent of nano-scale technologies, corporations are patenting essential building blocks of all living and non-living things. Industry is redefining life to create hybrid organisms that will take on machine functions. When we tell them they have gone too far, they will reply, "Don't worry. We're all just machines."

Re:TGFG (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 8 years ago | (#15026346)

You think google are doing this to be altruistic?

They give the information away because they know the more you use it, the more they can advertise to you.

Its all still about money, its just google gives us nice sweeties that at present won't rot our teeth.

Re:TGFG (1)

Pedrito (94783) | about 8 years ago | (#15026398)

You think google are doing this to be altruistic?

I don't know. Do you? Sure, they'll make money with ads as they do it, but I wouldn't put it past Google to do things for altruistic reasons as well. I mean, they did make the billion dollar Google.org [google.org]. I'm sure they're going to make a killing off of it by advertising, though.

Re:TGFG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026381)

They seem to be one of the few companies that actually gets the fact that information wants to be free.

Ah, that old song. At the risk of being offtopic, did you know that the very next sentance following "Information wants to be free" in that famous essay was, "Information also wants to be expensive."

Wonder why that one never caught on?

Re:TGFG (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026437)

"In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."
Carl Sagan

publicity stunt? (1)

Optical Voodoo Man (611836) | about 8 years ago | (#15026246)

From the Web page:

Groups involved with the coalition include:

IPBN - Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network in Cusco, Peru
SEARICE - South East Asia Regional Inititiaves in Community Empowerment Philippines
ETC Group - Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration in Ottawa

Is that the best this organization is bringing? Why is this even news? Can anyone create a catchy name for an award, put it on a web page, and this then becomes real news? For crying out loud, those fakers even spelled "Initiatives" wrong. Not that my own spelling is great, but am I the only one that see how fake this is?

Whose profits will be reduced if Googel proceeds? (2, Informative)

mmell (832646) | about 8 years ago | (#15026252)

Evidently, somebody felt their future revenue stream being threatened by publication of this data - hence the 'piracy' tag. It seems little more than a cynical ploy to preserve the closed-for-profit model that has been the rule in most research lately.

The Human Genome Project was a collaborative effort, largely funded by government and public sources. The agencies involved in the research, however, seem to have a vested interest in keeping the data private, even going so far as to patent genetic sequences (isn't there "prior art" for all of my DNA? I call them "parents"). Freely available information, while often valuable, has no resale value. Can this be the true cause of The "Coalition Against Biopiracy" issueing what seems more like a political slander campaign than a genuine warning of wrongdoing?

Perhaps we should ask:

IPBN - Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network

P.O. Box 567

Cusco, Peru

Phone: +51 84 24-5021

email: ipbn@web.net

SEARICE - South East Asia Regional Inititiaves in Community Empowerment

Unit 331, Eagle Court Condominium

26 Matalino Street, Central District

Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

Phone: (63 2) 433-7182, 433-2067

Fax: (63 2) 922-6710

email: searice@searice.org.ph

web: http://www.searice.org.ph/ [searice.org.ph]

ETC Group - Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration

431 Gilmour St, Second Floor,

Ottawa, ON Canada K2P 0R5

Tel: 1(613)241-2267

Fax: 1(613)241-2506

email: etc@etcgroup.org

web: http://www.etcgroup.org/ [etcgroup.org]

This is what the hullabaloo is about... (1)

FellowConspirator (882908) | about 8 years ago | (#15026268)

Basically, Venter -- whose a shameless self-promoter, but nonetheless well accomplished because he's well funded and hires good people -- had an idea that he'd travel the world taking DNA samples from everything in sight to capture a broad view of biodiversity at the genetic level. The idea is that by doing so that we'd better be able to categorize genes, describe their function and evolution, etc. There's more than a few problems with that, but in true Venter style, he'd cross that bridge when he came to it.

While he travelled, he found out that not everyone thought this was a keen idea. It turns out that many people perceived (one could argue correctly) that a US company was out to make a buck by exploiting things specific to their community -- and if this was the case, they wanted a cut -- which he wasn't going to give, this is for the world scientific community! As a result, Venter was frequently required to throw away samples, forced out of certain areas, made to wipe the dirt off his shoes, etc.

If there's gold to be found in them there genetic hills, by God the locals ought to have dibs -- so the thinking goes. Now Google plans to make a giant database of it (well, truth be told, much of it already is public, they are simply going to add the magic Google touch, build services, and cull annotation around it). In theory, doing so would dilute the value of the information and prevent the locals from capitalizing on the information.

In a sense, it's a silly situation. The information in isolation has little probability of being useful. Even if it were, it's not likely anyone would ever be able to capitalize on it and turn a profit from it -- that's hard enough with genes that are well researched and have obvious commercial implications. And all that is predicated on the assumption that people own and have IP rights on all living matter in their own sphere of geopolitical influence. Further, we're talking about water samples, pollen, dirt -- stuff likely to be stuck to your clothes if you walk by.

Even if you are the Pope of the church of "intellectual property" and think every quark in a lizard's nut is patentable, I would think its a real stretch to call this "piracy".

Re:This is what the hullabaloo is about... (1)

airuck (300354) | about 8 years ago | (#15026374)

If there's gold to be found in them there genetic hills, by God the locals ought to have dibs -- so the thinking goes.

Why is that? Venter has specifically targeted non-cultivated microbial organisms. How could anyone claim to own an entire species far older than the human race just because they currently occupy a specific location? What hubris.

Re:This is what the hullabaloo is about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026379)

Basically, Venter -- whose a shameless self-promoter, but nonetheless well accomplished because he's well funded and hires good people -- had an idea that he'd travel the world taking DNA samples from everything in sight to capture a broad view of biodiversity at the genetic level. The idea is that by doing so that we'd better be able to categorize genes, describe their function and evolution, etc. There's more than a few problems with that, but in true Venter style, he'd cross that bridge when he came to it.
Are you sure it isn't spelled "Venture"...

Random report card groups (1)

Mantrid (250133) | about 8 years ago | (#15026285)

In the spirit of these groups giving companies or agencies "report cards" or rating them on arbitrary lists of their choosing I hereby give the website an F. Maybe next time they can get a D+ it depends what letter grade appeals to me on that day.

sort button (1)

se7en11 (833841) | about 8 years ago | (#15026312)

As long as Google provides a sort button on the results, I've got no problems with it. There's no point in having to wade through the morons to get to the good ones.

What really happened (1)

Baloo Ursidae (29355) | about 8 years ago | (#15026333)

Fake award staged, problem of "biopiracy" (as if that's even a word) invented in large conspiracy to make Slashdot's front page.

Biopiracy is widespread and insidious. (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | about 8 years ago | (#15026345)

Laugh me off if you want, but I am willing to bet that billions - that's BILLIONS - of human beings wouldn't be around today had not other human beings wantonly and freely copied and spread their genetic codes.

Google genes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026348)

A genetic database already exists, it's called Genbank, and has been around for about 20 years. What's news about this?

I give google full permission (2, Funny)

mseidl (828824) | about 8 years ago | (#15026358)

Ok! Being that I have several genes in my body, which I own thank you very much. I give google full permission to index these for others to search. You see people in Brazil - I own the genes in my body, fully. Google is not "pirating" anything.

How will it compare? (1)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | about 8 years ago | (#15026401)


For those unaware, you can currently browse the genome libraries: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genome/guide/human/res ources.shtml [nih.gov]

You can even do BLAST searches: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/genome/seq/BlastGen/Bl astGen.cgi?taxid=9606 [nih.gov]

What will Google and Venter bring to this approach, I wonder? A faster search algorithm? I don't see how it could be more open, but it might be made more accessible--maybe. The genome is a complicated thing, and it probably requires the interpretation of scientific minds to make much of the implications of a particular sequence.

Gene Shopping (1)

ComSon0 (473373) | about 8 years ago | (#15026402)

This sounds a lot like Gattaca (Movie) [wikipedia.org].
People runnig around to little booths that decode one's genome and allow them to know if a possible mate is adequate, and in some cases "good enough for you". I see the advantages, but soon we will be having matching sites based on your "Personal and Genetic Compatibilities!"

I do not get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026408)

I am a researcher and I have been following for quite some time all the effort to obtain genomes (human and non-human). One of the main concerns in the communities was that since some companies were carrying out private efforts to sequence some genomes, all that data would be lost to people who do research in public institutions. Luckily, this has not been so, and we are all able to benefit from a lot o priceless information. Google efforts to make available the genomes is not something new, you can already have access to that information (NCBI, EMBL, TIGR,...). Now, if by bio-piracy you are referring to getting a hold of the genomes of indigenous populations, my point of view is that any human genome is a patrinome of humanity (at least as it is anonymous). All these conspirations theories will not be worsened by any of google efforts (besides, most of them are bollocks).

google's work (1)

NynexNinja (379583) | about 8 years ago | (#15026409)

If anything, google will take an already existing public resource and make it easier to digest and search. If anything, it will increase the ability for people to get their work done.

there is such database already - Genbank (1)

nanobuggs (878637) | about 8 years ago | (#15026413)

NCBI [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/%5D [nih.gov] has this database for years, where everyone can search for genes, proteins, etc. Will you be able to do Google search for a gene on the Google web site instead of doing BLAST search?

already done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15026420)

Google's too late on this one, It's already been done. Go to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov or expasy.org

I also notice that biologists have had awesome search tools figured out before google got famous for theirs.
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