March 18, 2003
The French Bioethics Bill is particularly contrary to the Biotech Directive. Unlike the Biotech Directive, which allows the patenting of isolated gene sequences where some utility is shown, the Bioethics Bill forbids the patenting of gene sequences. The French bill will allow the patenting of a specific technical application of a function of an element of gene sequence.
But the French government has made no attempt to suggest that the two pieces of legislation are compatible. In fact, French Health Minister Professor Matthei, a sponsor of the bill, suggests that the best way forward would be for the Biotech Directive to be interpreted in accordance with the Bioethics Bill.
The absurdity of this suggestion is clear: a European Directive which was duly passed after over a decade of negotiations, and which was unsuccessfully challenged in the highest European Court, should now be effectively scrapped and replaced with the French Senate's view.
Where now after the French "Non"?
One can only imagine the cries of outrage if it were the United States doing something like this.