WASHINGTON (November 18, 2003) -- In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and other congressional leaders, Cardinal William Keeler has urged inclusion of the Weldon amendment to prevent the patenting of human organisms in the omnibus appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2004.
The amendment reaffirms an internal policy that has guided the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) since 1987, "reflecting a common-sense understanding that no member of the human race at any stage of development is merely an 'invention' or property to be licensed, bought and sold," Cardinal Keeler said.
"Tragically, some researchers want to patent and market human embryos with certain genetic profiles as 'models' for studying diseases with genetic roots," the Cardinal wrote. "Their project may well succeed unless Congress provides clear and explicit support for the current administrative policy against patenting human embryos."
Cardinal Keeler is Chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The Weldon amendment to the Commerce/Justice/State appropriations bill was approved by the House of Representatives in July.
"Because the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) has criticized the Weldon amendment for supposedly being overbroad, Senator Brownback has offered
helpful added language to make clear exactly what the amendment does and does not cover," Cardinal Keeler continued. "To be sure, even this may not be acceptable to BIO, which has argued that a human being should be patentable as an 'invention' if he or she has been changed by 'human intervention' or was conceived by anything other than 'conventional reproduction.' However, Senator Brownback's language responds to any possible legitimate objection to the amendment," he wrote.
"I urge your strong support for these efforts by Congressman Weldon and Senator Brownback to prevent the commodifying of fellow human beings," Cardinal Keeler said.