Duo bids to halt breeding of human-animal hybrids
Sunday 05 April 1998
Jeremy Rifkin says that he is seeking the patents on such a "chimera" in order to focus people's minds on the question of whether a human embryo can be considered intellectual property.
Mr Rifkin, who heads the business pressure group Foundation in Economic Trends, based in Washington DC, has applied jointly in the US for the patents with Stuart Newman, a New York scientist.
The creation of such a creature would be illegal in the UK under the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. But it would be legal in the US.
Neither applicant has actually produced such a chimera in the laboratory. Instead, they are exploiting a loophole in the US patent system which grants patents based on the description, rather than the demonstration, of a technique. The duo plan a similar application in Europe.
If the patents are granted, Mr Rifkin will hold them for "genetic conservancy" and refuse to license their use. He wants to spark a debate about the moral and ethical issues involved in patenting life and bioengineering humans. "There are serious constitutional issues involved here," he says. "Can a human embryo be considered intellectual property? This is the sort of question that we haven't debated in the US for 135 years - since slavery."
The problem, he says, is that the public does not really understand the consequences of the work currently going on in the biotechnology industry.
The creation of a human-animal chimera is the logical culmination of many projects being carried out by biotechnology companies. Already, it is common for transgenic bacteria and even animals to be given human genes. PPL, the company which helped produce Dolly the sheep, has a flock of sheep with a human gene to produce a protein for the treatment of cystic fibrosis.
PPL has applied for patents on cloning which its lawyers have confirmed would cover human cloning. And last year, Japanese scientists produced laboratory mice which had human chromosomes added.
A chimera would mingle the embryonic material of two species - which might have commercial applications. For example, a human-chimpanzee cross might be useful for testing new drugs to see if they would be harmful to humans or for examining human development.
But Thomas Murray, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Case Western Reserve University, said: "If we put one human gene in an animal, or two or three, some people may get nervous but you're clearly not making a person yet. But when you talk about a hefty percentage of the cells being human ... this really is problematic. Then you have to ask these very hard questions about what it means to be human."
- 1 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 2 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 3 Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
- 4 Lauren Goodger sex tape: Reality star calls for tougher laws on revenge porn after intimate video leaks online
- 5 The Simpsons Family Guy trailer: First look at crossover episode after Comic-Con debut
A new Russian revolution: The cracks are starting to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Thatcher ‘was warned of Tory child sex party claims’
Israel-Gaza conflict: President Obama presses Netanyahu to call ‘immediate and unconditional’ Gaza ceasefire
Lauren Goodger sex tape: Reality star calls for tougher laws on revenge porn after intimate video leaks online
Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...
£90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...
£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Outstanding Teaching Assistants needed f...