Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sex, Biology, And The Supreme Court

During United States Supreme Court oral arguments today (April 28, 2015) in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, "biology" and its cognates were uttered 27 times in relation to whether or not there is a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.  John J. Bursch, Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan, opposing same-sex marriage, repeatedly argued variations of the following mantras:  "[W]e want to encourage children to be bonded to their biological mother and father" and "[W]e want to forever link children with their biological mom and dad when that's possible."  Justice Elena Kagan, echoing several other justices, offered this challenging retort:  "[I]t's hard to see how permitting same-­sex marriage discourages people from being bonded with their biological children."  In addition, it was noted repeatedly that many married couples either adopt children born to other parents - as Chief Justice Roberts and his wife have done - or have no children at all.

Bursch leaned heavily on "biology" to support his moral arguments against same-sex marriage.  Yet, biology and morality make strange and unmarriageable bedfellows.  Biology can, indeed, shine considerable light on a number of social issues discussed in the oral arguments, including bases for sexual preferences, means and patterns of procreation, and even why "fathers with the benefits or the requirements of marriage walk away from their children".  However, pair-bonded humans reproduced successfully and prodigiously for aeons before the invention of the institution of marriage.  So, any necessary connection between marriage, bonding, and "biology" remains unsubstantiated at best.

Biological evidence can be useful to support legal arguments.  The use of DNA evidence to convict and exonerate criminal suspects may be a success, but the attempt to use "biology" to deny marriage rights to same-sex couples is a failure.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mark Lynas On GMOs

Way back on January 4, 2013, in Mark Lynas Recants on GM Agriculture, I discussed high-profile former GMO-critic Mark Lynas' change of heart in favor of genetic modification of agricultural organisms.  In an op-ed entitled "How I Got Converted to GMO Food", published in the Sunday New York Times on April 26, 2015, Lynas offered his impassioned advocacy of the agricultural benefits of genetic engineering.  Here is a remarkable passage from the article:
After writing two books on the science of climate change, I decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s. 
There is an equivalent level of scientific consensus on both issues, I realized, that climate change is real and genetically modified foods are safe. I could not defend the expert consensus on one issue while opposing it on the other.

As I described in Intellectual Property as the Third Dimension of GMO Regulation, the history of opposition to GM food is replete with scientific myths and reversals of rationale and opinion.  Even so, it is remarkable to watch the continuing metamorphosis of Lynas' views from those of sworn opponent to those of passionate proponent.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Climate Change Shocker!

The world of climate change science was rocked today, April 1, 2015, by the following discombobulating revelation. Who knows what to think anymore?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Canadian Cruz Control

Canada is not known for its flash, brashness, or will to power.  That is why it is so surprising that a Canadian has become the first Republican candidate to declare his ambition to be elected the 45th President of the United States.  Rafael Edward Cruz has many of the credentials expected of Presidential candidates, including intelligence, rhetorical skills, a deep knowledge of children's literature, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School (HLS 2005).  However, he has an additional credential that makes him unique, for, unlike Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama (HLS 1991), Ted Cruz was not born in the United States, but, rather, in the great dominion to its north.  On December 22, 1970, Cruz was born into the frigid Stampede City of Calgary, Canada.  He would be the first Canuck President of the United States.  A politician as talented as Cruz in the White House might even be able to persuade his "Home and Native Land" to welcome the United States back into the fold - whence it bolted in 1776 - as a fourth Canadian territory (alongside Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut), with the potential one day, perhaps, of even becoming a fully-fledged eleventh province.  As the motto of his birth city, Calgary, urges, Onward, Ted!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Written Description On PatCon

In 2011, Dave Schwartz (Chicago-Kent College of Law), Ted Sichelman (University of San Diego School of Law), David Olson (Boston College Law School), and I founded The Patent Conference, which quickly become known as "PatCon."  On April 10th and 11th, 2015, PatCon V will return to the University of Kansas School of Law, where it first began.  We were delighted to read in Written Description, a patent law blog founded by Lisa Larrimore Ouellette (Stanford Law School) that has become one of the most influential intellectual property blogs, that PatCon is one of the three "big annual IP-focused academic conferences in the US."  Thank you very much to Written Description for this most generous mention.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Patent Traps For Synthetic Biology

In its January 2015 issue, the leading journal of biotechnology, Nature Biotechnology, published a commentary on the role of patents in synthetic biology and technical standards-setting by law professors Jorge Contreras (Utah), Arti Rai (Duke), and I, entitled "Intellectual property issues and synthetic biology standards".  The University of Kansas reported on our article on January 12, 2015.  In our commentary, we argue that intellectual property issues, especially those relating to patent rights, should be fully considered prior to the adoption of any synthetic biology technical standard to avoid situations in which intellectual property rights could do harm to the standard adopted.  One of the strengths of synthetic biology is the prevailing ethos of open innovation.  We urge that open innovation, to remain open, must be careful not to fall into avoidable patent traps.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tempest In A Genome

In 2011, Genome Canada invited me to deliver the keynote address at their fall conference in Ottawa, Canada.  I just discovered that Genome Canada has now posted the video of the speech, entitled "Tempest Tost - Genomics in the Legal Storm".  Here it is: Thank you very much to Professor Jeremy de Beer - a brilliant intellectual property scholar at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law/Universit√© d'Ottawa Facult√© de droit - for perhaps the nicest introduction I have ever received.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fewer Calories Via More Data

The trend towards obesity among Americans has an air of mystery to it.  Many causes have been suggested.  These include overzealous advertising, hormones in drinking water, less active lifestyles, overprocessing of food, and increased portion sizes.  Having weighed its options, the United States Food and Drug Adminstration ("FDA") has decided to bet on the latter directly by proposing final rules mandating that restaurants and vending machines provide accurate caloric information on the foods and alcohol they sell.  This decision places a heavy burden on a single potential cause for the obesity epidemic.  The FDA hopes that easy availability of caloric content will tip the scales in a positive direction by nudging consumers towards healthier lower calorie food and smaller portions of higher calorie food.  Though both food inputs and exercise outputs are crucial to combating obesity, the FDA should be lauded for helping to satisfy consumers' huge appetite for quality information about food.