The patentability of living matter
The successful deciphering of the human genome early in 2001 reawakened discussion about the patentability of living matter, in other words the possibility that a person or organisation may acquire the ownership of the genetic sequences of a living organism. In the United States this has been possible for plant species since the early 1930s, and Europe has followed a similar approach. However the ability to acquire ownership of human genetic sequences - essential components of the human body - is an issue of an entirely different magnitude. To begin with, it raises ethical issues of great and urgent significance to all, both politicians and members of the public. There are also important economic and social questions in this field. The debate about the patentability of living matter in Europe was reopened on 6th July 1998 by Directive 98/44/CE of the European Parliament and Council, which concerns the legal protection of inventions in the field of biotechnology. In this report, Alain Claeys makes his own contribution to the discussion. His primary aim is instructive, in order to set out the terms of reference of this problem as clearly as possible, believing that it should not remain the preserve of a few specialists since it is of concern to the country as a whole. He also suggests additional topics for exploration and puts forward proposals as a contribution to the major public debate that he believes the subject deserves.
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Biotechnology, Environment, Ethics, Expert-based, Governance, Innovation, Medical technology, Parliament involvement
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Office Parlementaire d´Evaluation des Choix Scientifiques et Technologiques of the French Parliament (OPECST)