They cannot patent life

Many Parliaments in the European Union pretend to enforce a Law Project to expand the field of industrial patents to the field of human beings. It would apply a European directive on national legislations that would establish patents on plants, animals and genes or biological human matter. Many countries have appealed to this initiative because they are not compatible with the Agreement on Biological Diversity and because it violates fundamental human rights. Germany, Belgium and France requested the re-negotiation of this Initiative, following their Parliaments. Not everything that the European Union authorities promote can be accepted without the discussion of the different representatives of the people in Europe.
Protests against this project have started to take place because living beings are not a human “invention”. Biological matter can be isolated and reproduced in a test tube with biotechnology techniques, but that does not mean that it was invented in a laboratory. It is as absurd as pretending to concede author copyrights to the person that photocopies a literary masterpiece, arguing that the Xerox process constitutes an innovation.
Patents on living beings, including human biological matter, pose serious ethical and social considerations, related to dignity of human and living beings, and to issues of equity, which have not been thoroughly debated.
Biological diversity is a collective heritage of the peoples, in particular of the indigenous and farming communities of the Third World. Patents on plants and animals are equivalent to an embarrassing license for owning this collective heritage, taking away their present and future benefits to those who have taken care of it and conserved it.
Plants and animals, like genes and human biological matter, are the base of innovation in agriculture and medicine, and the concession of monopoly rights (patents) on these goods is trampling on fundamental human rights: the right to food, to health and the rights to benefits from progress.
Far from encouraging innovation, these patents are an obstacle to investigation and innovation in the fields of health care and agriculture, especially in the public sector, which has the most responsibility on the health and the well being of the least fortunate people.
The approval of these patents would be a huge break to progress and the survival in our exhausted planet.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 11/08/2004