Bio-ethics : No patents for stem cells
19 October 2011
In a ruling applauded by the Catholic Church, criticised by researchers, and feared by the pharmaceuticals industry: "The European Court of Justice has banned patents based on human stem cell research,” headlines Die Presse. On 18 October, the judges in Luxembourg that researchers who had recourse to methods involving the destruction of human embryos would not be able to patent their discoveries, invoking the principle of "respect for human dignity." European states are divided on the issue of the use of stem cells in research, with national legislation that varies from an outright ban in Italy to very liberal laws in the United Kingdom and Sweden.
In Germany, the country where the case heard by the European Court of Justice began with a complaint filed by Greenpeace against a Bonn University researcher, the press is divided on the issue. The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung enthusiastically remarks that the ruling shows that “economic interests do not take precedence over everything,” while Süddeutsche Zeitung struggles to understand the decision. "Excessive moralising," headlines the Bavarian daily, which points out that the judges were less motivated by moral considerations when considering the patenting of "components for tanks, abortion pills and the results of animal testing.”