Should we be able to patent GMO's? Why? Why not? 

When scientists discover the function or existence of a certain gene within the genome of an organism, there is generally a race to document these findings, and in some cases, patent the discovery so that they have the exclusive rights to work with it until the patent expires (about 17-20 years).

Some feel that by allowing gene patents we are encouraging innovation by giving scientists an incentive to discover new and useful genes. However, others disagree, asserting that patentint genes slows down innovation, as many scientists have been forced to stop work on genes previously patented by other companies/individuals.

Biological patenting began in the 1970's when scientists patented techniques for creating recombinant DNA. In the 1980's, people started to patent entire organisms, bringing up a whole new set of questions.  

Monsanto, for example, owns the rights to a number of their own GMOs and genes. Opponents of GM worry that in the case of a crisis, Monsanto would hold all the power, as the patent holder for so many agricultural genes. This is a concern of the Millions Against Monsanto movement (see Monsanto page)

This whole issue brings up a number of questions that do not have simple answers. For example- Many genes that are patented today are naturally occurring, but have been recently discovered in terms of their function and potential applications. Should scientists or companies like Monsanto be allowed to patent something that they didn't actually invent?

Does the potential to get money from patenting organisms and genes lead to more discovery or delay in innovation? Many scientists find themselves facing an army of patent wielding corporations when they attempt to do research in an area that the biotech companies want control over. 

Citation 5, Citation 7