LONDON Euphoria surrounding the completion of mankind's DNA blueprint is being overshadowed by commercial competition, as private companies, lawyers, investors and public groups all rush to patent genes and get a slice of the lucrative biotech pie.

The race to produce a complete map of mankind's genetic code was only the prologue to a far more sinister plot. Research commissioned by the UK's Guardian newspaper reveals the extent and pace of the gene patent rush. A special report published on 15 November details the main companies that are stacking up gene patents, not only for human genes but for rice, HIV, tree and spider genes as well.

Biotech firms recognise that the gene market promises big money and claim they need patent protection in order to recoup their investments. But scientists are divided on this issue of gene accessibility. Early this year, a rift re-emerged in the uneasy public/private research...

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