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Human Embryos: European Court of Justice rules out patenting of embryos. Peter Liese MEP


18 Oct 2011

Today, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that human embryos and cells generated from them must not be patented. The EPP Group in the European Parliament welcomes this decision. "It has been very important throughout for the European Parliament to clearly define ethically-motivated boundaries in the Directive on Biotechnological Inventions. It is very good news that the ECJ has now ruled accordingly. We are in favour of research and development in biotechnology, but human beings must not be destroyed, not even in the early stages of their development", said Peter Liese MEP, EPP Group Coordinator in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of the European Parliament.

Peter Liese expects that research will now go into more ethically-acceptable alternatives. "Since from now on it will not be possible to get a patent on the research with embryos and embryonic stem cells, research will focus more on fields that do not raise ethical concerns, e.g. on adult stem cells. As opposed to embryonic research, there are already more than 70 diseases that have been cured with adult stem cells. That's why today is also a good day for patients. I expect that the ruling will stir a fundamental debate on the protection of human life. During the coming weeks, the European Commission will present its proposal on the next Research Framework Programme. I hope that the ECJ ruling will lead to the promotion of more ethically-justifiable research alternatives in this dossier also", said Mr Liese, who holds a PhD from the Institute of Human Genetics of the University of Bonn.

Article 6(2)(c) of EU Directive 98/44 excludes an invention from patentability "where the technical teaching which is the subject matter of the patent application requires the prior destruction of human embryos or their use as base material, whatever the stage at which that takes place and even if the description of the technical teaching claimed does not refer to the use of human embryos. (...) Any human ovum after fertilisation constitutes a 'human embryo'".

For further information:

Peter LIESE MEP, Tel: +32-2-2847981

Thomas Bickl, EPP Group Press and Communications Service, Tel: +32-478-215372

Notes to Editors:

The EPP Group is by far the largest political group in the European Parliament with 264 Members.