The United States Government announced on April 16, 1987, that it is clearing the way for investors to patent new forms of animal life through gene splitting, and that the new policy would be adopted by the Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office.
The policy will allow the patenting of animals with new traits, and one report states that “researches will eventually make it possible to mix animal, plant, microbe, and human genes into animal embryos to produce custom-design animals.”
For the time being the patenting of new genetic character in humans is expressly barred, but at least one official of the Patent and Trademark Office admits that the new policy could eventually lead to “commercial protection of human traits.” Charles Van Horn, director of organic chemistry and biotechnology in the patent office is quotes as saying: “The decision says higher life forms will be considered and it could be extrapolated to human beings, but for the time being, we are not going to consider applications involving human life.”
A coalition of concerned groups was formed in Washington, D.C, on the day of the announcements, April 16, in an effort to block the policy. Dr. Michael Fox, a veterinarian and scientific director of the Humane Society of the United States, speaking as a member of the coalition condemned the policy outright. “One can infer form this decision that the entire creative process in higher forms of life, including human life, is going to be directed or controlled to satisfy purely human ends. WE are no only playing a God, we are assuming dominion over God.”
Dr. J. Robert Nelson, director of the Institute of Religion at the Texas Medical Centre in Houston was equally outraged. “It’s a s a staggering decision. It removes one more barrier to the protection of human life. Good God, once you start with patenting life forms, is their not stopping it?”