The BUAV has joined a coalition of organisations from Germany and Switzerland to file a joint opposition against a patent on genetically engineered chimpanzees granted to the US company, Intrexon. Patent EP1456346 was granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) in February 2012. The chimpanzees will be manipulated with synthetic DNA originating from insects and are intended for use in pharmaceutical research.
The joint opposition argues that the patent violates the ethical provisions in patent law. The opponents are the Albert Schweitzer Foundation for Our Contemporaries, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), Deutscher Tierschutzbund, Gen-ethisches Netzwerk (GeN), Gesellschaft für oekologische Forschung, No Patents on Life!, Pro Wildlife, Schweizerische Arbeitsgruppe Gentechnologie (SAG), Schweizer Tierschutz (STS), Testbiotech and Wild Chimpanzee Foundation Germany (WCF).
Michelle Thew, Chief Executive of the BUAV stated:‘‘It is unethical to patent sentient beings. People do not "invent" these animals. Patenting the animals would be to treat them as machines, not individuals deserving of moral concern. Furthermore, patenting creates an incentive to manipulate and alter animals for economic gain, often to their detriment.’
“Animals should be seen as fellow creatures, treated with the respect they deserve and protected from commercial abuse. There is absolutely no justification for patenting great apes - it would, in fact, be an affront to our own species”, says Christoph Then for Testbiotech. “The EPO has gone far beyond boundaries accepted by European society. It is time to stop patents on animals.”
The EPO has granted three patents on genetically engineered chimpanzees this year, two of them for Intrexon and a third patent was granted to the US company, Altor BioScience. In all, the EPO has already granted around 1200 patents on animals, since the first one in 1992 for the so-called “oncomouse”. Several patents have been granted on great apes. In 2010, the company Bionomics received a patent on genetically engineered chimpanzees suffering from an epileptic disorder (EP 1852505).
Some EU countries, including the UK, have already prohibited experiments on great apes and the EU has adopted Directive 2010/63/EU which places a ban on the use of great apes in research, except under exceptional circumstances.