Patents on life

The introduction of genetic engineering also saw patents being granted on living organisms deemed to be ‘technical inventions’. The first patent of this kind was granted in Europe in 1992 on a mammal, the so-called ‘oncomouse’. Other patents had previously been granted on plants and human genes. Patents covering the use of human embryos or interventions into the human germline create specific ethical problems. Patents on genetically engineered animals for use in pharmaceutical experiments must similarly be rejected, since they inherently give rise to incentives to perform experiments in the expectation of making profits. Extending the scope of patents to agriculture and breeding is also extremely concerning: such patents frequently not only claim the technical processes but also the biological resources needed by all breeders.

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