Canadian Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada welcomed a Supreme Court decision Dec. 5 not to allow the patenting of higher life forms – such as the Harvard mouse – in Canada. The CCC and the EFC intervened together before the court.
The extension of patentability to higher life forms would have been an expansion of patent law into new areas of significance for public policy in Canada, said Canon Eric Beresford, consultant to the CCC and ethics consultant with General Synod. “Such changes need full public debate and should take place in Parliament and not the courts. Harvard University modified life, they did not create it,” he said.
Harvard scientists altered the genetic composition of a mouse so that it and its offspring would develop cancer more frequently and predictably. The university applied for a patent not only on the process by which the mouse is modified, but also on the gene introduced.