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Nat Genet. 1999 May;22(1):23-6.

Status, sale and patenting of human genetic material: an international survey.

Author information

  • Genetics and Society Project, Centre de droit recherche en droit public, Faculté de Droit, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada. knoppers@droit.umontreal.ca


Following a decade of debate, the European Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union on July 6, 1998. The Directive constitutes a legal and social policy landmark in biotechnology, taking an explicit position on the contentious issue of the patentability of higher life forms. It fails, however, to provide definitive statements on the legal status of human genetic material or the possibility of personal financial gain in relation to such material. An overview of the international, regional and national positions (as found in laws and official policy statements) on the status, commodification and patentability of human genetic material indicates that, although the Directive represents a consolidation of opinions, many issues remain unresolved.

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