Letter: Genetic patents

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Sir: Recent moves by the European Parliament to adopt the fundamentally flawed Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions Directive (report, 13 May) are worrying, to say the least.

This Directive blurs the line further between what constitutes an invention and a discovery, at a time when ethical considerations should be at the forefront of decision- making. Sadly, it seems such considerations come a distant second to the profiteering of industry.

People have the right to be asked before samples are taken from their bodies and patented. Under this Directive, that right will not exist.

Genetic modification of animals is one of the fastest growing areas of animal experimentation in the UK. In 1996, over 300,000 procedures involving genetically manipulated animals were carried out - an increase of 525 per cent since 1990.

This Directive will give the go-ahead for yet more experiments to be carried out at an ever-increasing rate. How does this lie with Labour's pledge to reduce animal experiments? Yet again, we see strong talk but little action.

Now is the time to have a wide-ranging debate on genetic engineering before we make decisions we later regret. At the moment, a hidden revolution is taking place that nobody voted for.

NORMAN BAKER MP

(Lewes, Lib Dem)

House of Commons

London SW1

The writer is Liberal Democrat Genetic Engineering Spokesperson

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