LETTER:Patents that may save lives

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From Ms Vicki Hird

Sir: One of the key issues not covered in the outcry over patenting of life forms ("Government gave animal patents", 21 November) is that of need. In addition to the ethical and moral concerns, surely patents should be considered on the issue of whether we actually need the products? Woollier sheep, or cows which produce obscene amounts of milk are not needed to feed the world - they are produced by companies wanting to be first in the race to make money on their "inventions".

Smaller producers eventually find their market flooded with the new produce and consumers have little choice but to buy it. Sadly, turning companies' vast R&D investments towards more long-term solutions to major food or medical problems is an unlikely prospect.

Yours sincerely,

Vicki Hird

Sustainable Agriculture,

Food and Environment Alliance

London, SW1

22 November