Letter: Oncomouse: power of a patent, Christian perspective, the 'green rat'

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Sir: Dr Adrian Brasnett (Letters, 20 January) takes a peculiar moral stand if he feels that, as a European patent attorney, he can isolate his role from the whole process of patenting and using (and abusing) the 'Oncomouse'.

We are at the frontiers of genetic engineering. An Oncomouse is a genetically modified organism, or GMO, 'patented' to enable testing on animals to be taken a stage further. Not content with subjecting thousands of animals to horrific experiments and tests, we are 'designing' new creatures.

I urge the government to investigate human tissue culture and the newly invented 'green rat' - a computerised device for testing toxic substances. Surely the only true model for man is man, not animals, and surely it is not beyond the ingenuity of the human brain to devise suitable computer models for those practices that would otherwise cause us pain - a choice not open to animals employed in experimentation.

We now know that of the seven million chemicals we have devised, 80,000 are toxic and having widespread effects injurious to mankind and the environment.

The great moral question facing all of us is: 'Because we can do a thing, should we?' The Royal Commission on the Environment has just reported on the hazards of toxic substances. It should now consider genetic engineering and the Oncomouse, before it is too late and patents are established more for commercial interests than our greater good. This is tinkering with nature in a most frightening way.

Yours faithfully,

D. A. HOLT

Brandsby

North Yorkshire

21 January

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