Policy Allowing Patenting of Life Forms Fought
Roemhildt, Rachel A., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
It may sound like Greek mythology, but a patent application filed in December concerns a process for making chimeras, creatures that are part human, part animal.
Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends, and Stuart Newman, professor of cell biology and anatomy at New York Medical College, applied for the patent to challenge the government's policy on patenting life forms.
If the application is granted, Mr. Rifkin and Mr. Newman would use it to prevent such creations for 20 years, the length of the patent, which would provide time for legislation to be passed addressing the issue.
"We would like to see a situation where there is public discussion about this and we would like to see the legislatures at the national and international levels saying that organisms, particularly with human tissue, are not simple compositions of matter and are not inventions," Mr. Newman said in an interview.
In his book, "The Biotech Century," Mr. Rifkin says that "the debate over life patents is one of the most important issues ever to face the human family. Life patents strike at the core of our beliefs about the very nature of life and whether it is to be conceived of as having intrinsic or mere utility value."
Steven Kunin, deputy assistant commissioner for patent policy and projects for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, says that life forms can be patented as long as there is human intervention with the form to isolate and/or genetically alter it. Naturally occurring discoveries of nature cannot be patented. …