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If nature can help remediate damage humans have done to the environment, and help heal us, why aren't more of these solutions patentable?

Paul Stamets says we should consider using mushrooms, which overaccumulate radiation, to clean up after the nuclear accident(s) in Japan. Natural health products include many herbs and plants that have been used for thousands of years around the world.

The only limitation on spreading these ideas is the fact that there's no money in them if they can't be patented. No one can afford to do the research.

How can the TED community help spread these ideas and build political pressure to re-examine patent policy without going too far: allowing the government to patent, for example, substances like human blood?

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  • Mar 28 2011: How interesting! I agree, there are many "great ideas" that do not get spread because of the lack of money (and interest) in the ideas. And, given the recent events in Japan, an idea like using mushrooms to clean up after nuclear accidents is even MORE important and useful. Great idea/conversation starter. I hope that someone in the TED community has a great solution!
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    Mar 27 2011: Perhaps it's the other way around - they can't be patented because no corporation sees money in the effort. Cargill has found a way to patent corn, and farmers who use this corn are not allowed to keep or re-plant any of the seeds, they can only plant new seeds purchased from, guess who, Cargill. If Cargill, or some other food or corporate giant, saw big profits in natural solutions, I believe they would have found a way to corner that market as well. Or perhaps they are working on it right now... (Example: ADM has applied for patent 20100314312 which covers methods of bioremediation).