Brussels, 21 Oct 2005
With the deadline to lodge an appeal against the granting of the 'patent on designer baby' approaching, the Christian Democrats within the European Parliament have launched a campaign to bring about a resolution on the issue before the end of October.
The patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) some months ago covers a method to select mammalian sperm, including human sperm (germ cells). The technology can be used to select the sex of the child.
German Christian Democrat MEP Peter Liese states: 'This patent is problematic from an ethical point of view, but it also, form a legal point of view, constitutes a clear violation of the directive on patenting of biological inventions. This is because the patent not only covers the method to select the sperm, but also the human germ cells as such. This is clearly excluded under the above mentioned directive, and therefore action against this violation has to be taken.'
A statement from the Parliament's EPP-ED group emphasises that Christian Democrats support biotechnology and patenting, as they believe that this pushes innovation forward. Dr Liese stresses, however, that his political group advocates ethical limits.
'We are in favour of a purpose-bound protection, which means genes should only be patentable in connection with a purpose and the scope of the patent should only cover that purpose,' says Dr Liese.
The statement also touches upon the patenting of embryonic stem cells. The political group opposes the granting of such a patent, and so does the EPO. According to Dr Liese, the EPO stance is controversial within the organisation. 'Thus a political statement from the European Parliament's side is urgently necessary,' the MEP says.