22/11/2000 Another Human Gene Pool Sell Out
First Iceland, then Estonia, now the people of Tonga have been
sold out to a biotechnology company. Autogen Ltd, an Australia-based
firm, has secured exclusive rights over the entire Tongan gene
pool - some 110,000 people. Moreover, the people of Tonga have
not been told about the deal, signed by their government Nov 2000.
Biotech companies consider all Polynesians valuable ‘genetic
assets’ as they are isolated populations and keep accurate
records of all their family groupings. Exposure to western diet
means many Tongans now suffer from western diseases and Autogen
intends to use Tongan DNA to make links between disease and gene.
They will hunt for new drugs and treatments for diabetes, cardiovascular
disease, hyper-tension, cancers and ulcers.
Autogen stands to make billions from the development of new drugs
or treatments that become commer-cialised but it is unlikely that
Tongans will reap any benefit.
The company plans to build a small facility next to the national
hospital, so as it can gain easy assess to Tongan blood. Genetic
pedigrees of family members will be used to aid the hunt for genes,
which will be patented.
Autogen is building an intellectual property portfolio that
will give them monopoly in market futures. The company is actively
negotiating with other Polynesian nations in a move that could
make it the only company allowed to perform genetic studies on
the entire Polynesian race.
Sources: Austrialian Biotech firms buy_s Tonga’s gene
By Vanessa Williams in Melbourne. © 2000 Advertiser Newspapers
Ltd. Advertiser (Adelaide) (22/11/2000)