Greenpeace lawsuit could endanger stem cell research

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A new court ruling in Europe could bring the development of life-saving embryonic stem cell therapies to a halt. European scientists yesterday voiced strong opposition against a preliminary ruling by European Court of Justice (ECJ) Advocate General Yves Bot, who is calling for a ban on patents for embryonic stem cell-related technologies on moral grounds. Writing in a letter published in the journal Nature, leading stem cell scientists argued that if the ECJ, Europe’s highest court, were to follow this opinion, it would “put Europe at a huge disadvantage. Innovative companies must have patent protection as an incentive to become active in Europe.”

The environmental activist group Greenpeace brought this ECJ case against a stem cell patent filed by German scientists several years ago. The ECJ, which has a history of upholding the opinions made by advocate generals, will make a final ruling in the next few months.

In agreement with the opposing scientific opinion, ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross believes that, “If this ruling is approved, the EU will enter a Dark Age of stem cell research, on par with its ongoing Luddite fear of genetically-engineered agriculture.” ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom, however, wonders if pharmaceutical companies could get around this ruling by establishing proprietary practices, essentially keeping their developments “a secret.” He also notes that this preliminary ruling “is not unique to Europe. The U.S. is still debating whether one can patent ‘life’ (e.g. living cells).”