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The techniques of genetic modification allow useful characteristics to be introduced into living organisms, but there is debate over how far the resulting modified life forms should be patentable. US law allows patents to be considered for all modified organisms whether they be microorganisms, plants or (non-human) animals. In Europe, a Draft Directive is under consideration to allow similar rights, and is the subject of Early Day Motion (No. 755).

This POSTnote considers the scientific developments which have led to the possibility of ‘patenting life’, and the issues raised.

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