A patent need to look at ethics

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The Independent Online
From Mr Steve Emmott

Sir: Your two patent lawyer correspondents (Letters, 4 March), writing in response to the news that the European Parliament has rejected the EU directive on patenting life forms, both seek to portray the decision as being of little consequence for the biotechnology industry. This is curiously at odds with the furious lobbying that was going on in Brussels up to the last moment and the appearance of industry representatives on TV and radio arguing that rejection would sound the death knell for future investment in Europe.

There is no doubt that deep issues are raised by the creation of new genetically engineered plants and animals and the possibility of genetic manipulation of living human material. One MEP put his finger directly on the problem when he said in the debate that, until we got a satisfactory consensus of opinion on the ethics of biotechnology, it was simply inappropriate to grant private commercial monopolies on genetic material.

What we need is a cool look at what is, and what is not, acceptable to society in the use of this technology. Our MEPs have created the opportunity for this to happen. If industry presses on regardless with ad hoc patent applications, it will run into the same determined opposition that blocked the directive.

Yours faithfully,

STEVE EMMOTT

Patent Concern Coalition

The Genetics Forum

London, EC2

4 March

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