Media Release

Environmentalists Applaud Supreme Court Decision that Animals Cannot be Patented

Dec 05 2002

Ottawa. A coalition of environmental groups today applauded the Supreme Court decision that higher lifeforms cannot be patented in Canada. The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), Greenpeace, the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy(CIELAP), the Canadian Association for Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), and the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC), who originally presented their concerns to the court last May, agreed that today's ruling was made in the best interest of the public and the environment as a whole. Speaking for the groups, CELA lawyer Paul Muldoon said, "The Supreme Court got it right. The decision to not grant patents on mammals is in synch with Canadian societal values. Life is not a human invention and living beings should not be treated as commercial commodities".When the groups presented to the Supreme Court last May 21, they argued that patenting a higher life form not only violates patent law, but it would have negative consequences for scientific advancement, human health and the environment, including risks to biodiversity.The Supreme Court was asked to clarify the legal status of a patent decision on the "oncomouse," a genetically altered mouse used for cancer research. The Commissioner of Patents and the Federal Court Trial Division denied Harvard University's application for the patent. The Federal Court of Appeal then reversed this decision. Subsequently, the federal government appealed the matter to the Supreme Court of Canada. Several hundred patents on other life forms - many of them with commercial applications - have been lined up at the Canadian patent office waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling. In other countries companies have applied for patents covering the cloning of embryos, including human embryos. One such application revealed that scientists had produced embryos that were a mix of pigs and humans. The resulting embryos were grown for about a week.- 30 - Paul Muldoon, Executive Director, CELA 416-960-2284 ext. 219 (assistant Sharon, ext.211)Theresa McClenaghan, Counsel, cell 519-757-5266 or 416-960-2284 ext. 218 (assistant Tracy, ext. 210)Jo Dufay, Greenpeace, cell 416-451-9354 or 613-526-9860Anne Mitchell, Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, cell 416-577-8402 or 416-923-3529 ext. 24Dr. Kapil Khatter, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment 416-463-3080Pat Mooney, Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration 204-453-5259 (Winnipeg)