Patenting Human Evolution

28 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2008

See all articles by Andrew W. Torrance

Andrew W. Torrance

University of Kansas - School of Law

Date Written: November 12, 2008


Patent protection for genetic enhancements would tend to spur genetic innovation, but would tend to limit access to those genetic enhancements through discriminatory mechanisms such as price and favoritism. The patent system would likely ensure high rates of genetic enhancement innovation, research, and development, efficiently mediate access to genetic enhancements, but would also likely allow access to genetic enhancements to fewer members of society. Most importantly, the patent system has the potential to promote the kinds of genetic enhancements that might lead to human evolutionary change. Public policy and the law must grapple with the implications of genetic enhancement before current technological possibilities become societal realities. The patent system is an odd candidate to become a substantial arbiter of parental decisions regarding genetic enhancement of their offspring. It is certain that the implications the patent system has for future human genetic enhancement should be subjected to thorough analysis and debate prior to the imminent arrival of human genetic enhancement technologies. Otherwise, patent law may drive human evolution in directions either unplanned - or worse - undesired.

Keywords: patent, gene, genetic, genetic engineering, genetic modification, evolution, human evolution, genetic enhancement, human genetic enhancement, human evolution

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K11, K19, K20, K23, K29, K30, K32, K39, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Torrance, Andrew W., Patenting Human Evolution (November 12, 2008). Kansas Law Review, Vol. 56, p. 1075, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Andrew W. Torrance (Contact Author)

University of Kansas - School of Law ( email )

Green Hall
1535 W. 15th Street
Lawrence, KS 66045-7577
United States

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