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Genetics and the future of Europe

Patenting life
  • Directive 98/44 on the protection of biotechnological inventions, currently being transposed into national legislation in the Member States, stipulates that the discovery of a human genome sequence cannot be patented, but rather that a biotechnological process that utilises that sequence with a view to specific applications is patentable.
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  • Does the wording of the directive leave the door open to misinterpretations? "Should someone who has discovered a gene for one particular function, and is able to produce it by biotechnology, own that gene, for the next 20 years, for functions that have not yet been discovered?"(1) Some participants expressed the view that it is necessary to clarify how this essential directive is to be applied.

(1) Ernst-Ludwig Winnacker, University of Munich (DE).

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