Biopatent Directive implemented
Vienna - With a five-years' delay Austria's National Council has implemented the bio-
patent directive of the European Commission into national law. Since the set of rules is highly disputed in Austria only the governing ÖVP/FPÖ coalition agreed. Especially the possibility of patents on DNA sequences is met with criticism. Supporters again stressed the fact that now finally substantial grey zones are eliminated concerning the patenting of biological materials - particularly of genes.
An opposition spokesman justified the refusal of its parliamentary group with the fact that now “patenting of lives and genes” becomes possible. Other countries have demonstrated that the EU directive could have been implemented differently. In Germany it is almost impossible to patent a gene on the grounds of only one of possibly thousands functions, and human germ cells are not patentable at all. In contrast the interpretation in Austria is more liberal and to a large extent the unmodified EU text. According to the law, biological material isolated or made with the help of a technical procedure from its natural environment can be patented even if it was already present in nature. Sequences of genes, even if the structure of this component is identical to the structure of a natural component are also patentable.