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06 Jan 2015

Gene Patents

Senate Inquiry into Gene Patents

In November 2008, the Senate Community Affairs Committee established an inquiry into the patenting of human genes and genetic materials.

BCNA provided a written submission to the Inquiry and was subsequently invited to make a presentation at the Committee’s public hearings in Melbourne in August 2009.  BCNA CEO Lyn Swinburne, Policy Manager Michelle Marven, and Advocates Kristie Smith and Heather Drum presented to the Committee.

It was a powerful presentation that highlighted the varied experiences of women with a known gene mutation or strong family history of breast cancer. Importantly, the presentation also reinforced the importance of women's opinions being considered in any decision making process. Both Kristie and Heather did a wonderful job presenting their stories and made a visible impact on the members of the committee.

We also presented the results of a survey conducted with our members who have a strong family history of breast cancer, or a known genetic mutation. 

Senate Inquiry Committee Report

The Senate Committee tabled its report on 26 November 2010.  The report does not recommend a ban on gene patents, but does include a number of recommendations aimed at helping to eliminate gene patent monopolies.

Further developments

Private Member's Bill - November 2010

In a further development on this issue, on 24 November 2010 a private member’s bill which would ban the patenting of human genes in Australia was introduced into the Federal Parliament.

BCNA has not lodged a submission to the parliamentary committee that is inquiring into this piece of legislation. BCNA’s purpose in being involved in the gene patents debate is to ensure that women continue to have access to existing and new treatments and tests without fear of increased costs or reduced access. After discussions with a number of key stakeholders, we are not convinced that this bill is the best way to achieve this outcome.

We believe there may be other strategies that may be more effective in achieving this specific goal, including strengthening and promoting existing trade practice and patent legislation. We will continue to closely monitor this issue and to identify opportunities to advocate for effective change.

Government Bill - June 2011

In June 2011, the Federal Government introduced legislation into the Parliament to reform Australia’s intellectual property system. This legislation, called the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Bill 2011, proposes amendments in a number of areas of Australian law, including improving patent standards and ensuring researchers are free to carry out their work without being restricted by gene patents.

BCNA will follow the debate on this legislation and its progress through the Parliament with interest and will report any developments on the News pages of our website.