Patents on genetically engineered apes are no longer valid
We celebrate as US company patents on chimpanzees are withdrawn for ethical reasons
Our founding member Cruelty Free International was part of an alliance of animal welfare and environmental organisations that has successfully appealed against patents on genetically engineered apes and other animals as ‘inventions’ for use in research. After years of litigation, the European Patent Office (EPO) has ruled that two patents held by the US company Precigen on genetically modified chimpanzees are no longer valid. The outcome of the case is significant because it is the first time that the EPO has withdrawn patents on genetically modified animals entirely for ethical reasons. European law does not permit patents on the genetic engineering of animals if it is likely to cause suffering. However, exceptions are made in cases where there is evidence of medical benefit. Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, part of the animal group alliance, said: “The EPO has made a wise and responsible decision which sends a clear message to scientists who regard sentient beings as mere research tools.” Patents on animals have been causing controversy since 1992 when the first European patent was granted on genetically engineered animals. Since then the EPO has issued thousands of similar patents on animals engineered in laboratories as well as animals used in agriculture, such as cattle and pigs. Our Director of Science & Regulatory Affairs Dr Katy Taylor said: “Although patents on animals used in research are still are not fully prohibited, we hope the ruling proves to be a real turning point. Animals are sentient beings that feel pain and suffering just like we do. There is no justification for treating them like commodities. We will continue to demand a general ban on patents on animals for ethical reasons."