The Biofutures Project


This is the companion website to the DVD-rom Biofutures: Owning Body Parts and Information, coauthored by Robert Mitchell, Helen J Burgess and Phillip Thurtle, published by Penn Press in 2008. Here, we try & keep up with the latest news in biocommerce, biotechnologies and information ownership.

Biofutures is now viewable online in its entirety HERE.

Recent developments in biocommerce, and especially commerce in products and information based on human tissues, have become the source of intense debate. Much of this debate focuses on the question of what parts of the human body can be “owned” and sold. Many groups and individuals have voiced concern, sometimes even outrage, about the fact that is now possible, in the United States, for individuals to patent cell lines made from human tissues. Some corporations complain about the ways in which patents on naturally occurring genes and gene sequences prevent the development of therapeutic screening devices, while other companies argue that these patents are necessary for the advance of medicine. As of 2003, four states “explicitly define genetic information as personal property.” And in the wake of these debates, some commentators have suggested that even human tissues that were previously excluded from the market—for example, human organs—should become marketable.

We acknowledge with gratitude the generous financial support of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which provided a grant that supported the majority of the costs associated with creating this DVD-ROM. We are also grateful for the financial support of the Dean of the Faculty of the Arts and Social Sciences at Carleton University; the Office of the College of the Dean of the Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington; the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation, Inc.; and the Center for Genome Ethics, Law and Policy (GELP) of Duke University.