A health-conscious jogger breathes in the effluent.
Letís focus on preventing damage to our genes caused by
pollution and occupational toxins. Photo ©2000, Evan Johnson,
In the wake of news that the human genome had been mapped,
the Labor Partyís Science and Technology Committee, led by
Jonathan King of MIT, helped LP National Organizer Tony
Mazzocchi draft a statement outlining our response.
We in the Labor Party applaud the scientific advances being
made through the National Institutes of Health and the
National Science Foundation and other public research
programs. After all, it was the taxes of our members and other
working people who paid for the U.S. portion of this research
ever since federal funding for biomedical research was
launched after World War 2. Itís just too bad that we donít
have federally funded health care so that all our citizens can
receive the benefit of these advances.
But the Labor Party is particularly concerned over the use
of this genetic data to misdirect biomedical research and
health care. We know that damage to our genes causes cancer
and other nasty conditions. Itís not our genes that make us
sick ó our genes keep us functioning. Itís damage to our
genes that causes the problem. We in the labor movement see
this as an effort to blame the victim ó we have cancer
because we have "oncogenes" rather than we get
cancer because our genes have been damaged by oncogenic
agents. Itís like claiming that smokers get cancer because
they have "cancerous lungs."
The determination of human gene sequences advances our
ability to identify the damage that can be done to our genes
from carcinogens and mutagens, and the need to protect our
genes from environmental and occupational hazards. We know
that most human ill health is not inherited but is due to
external insult including pollution, infection, inadequate or
inappropriate diet, physical accident or excess stress or
social disruption such as wars. Preventing damage to human
genes from carcinogens is a far more effective public health
strategy than allowing disease to develop and then attempting
expensive and dangerous gene therapy or other heroic measures.
We are also disturbed when we see corporations like Celera
applying for and being granted patents on human genes. They
didnít invent our genes and they shouldnít be able to
profit by selling our gene sequences to the highest bidder.
Patents on human genes represent a theft not just from the
American people but from people all over the world.