The US Congress has passed legislation banning the issuing of patents covering unique human beings, including human embryos. Prompted by concern that scientists could apply for patents on human beings for research, an amendment to the America Invents Act (HR 1249) will codify an important pro-life policy rider included in the federal appropriations bills since 2004. This amendment, commonly known as the Weldon amendment, ensures the US Patent and Trademark Office cannot issue patents allowing companies or individuals to patent a human being.
Representative Dave Weldon, a pro-life doctor, was behind the original language, saying a patent is a government-conferred property right and human beings should not be considered “property.” The provision would ban patents for genetically engineered human embryos or human beings but would not prohibit patents on tissues, cells or other biological products that are not actual humans.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no patent may issue on a claim directed to or encompassing a human organism,” the language says. The ban “shall apply to any application for patent that is pending on, or filed on or after, the date of enactment.”
Making this policy permanent will ensure that the Weldon amendment does not have to be considered and reapproved every year. When the Weldon language was first approved, the biotech industry opposed the provision. Weldon said, however, that pro-life had lawmakers reached an agreement with members of the Senate to make it clear that the patent ban would not apply to other kinds of research.
LifeNews. September 15.
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