Published: Thursday 15 November 2001

The European Court of Justice has recently rejected an appeal of The Netherlands to overturn a European Union law that allows companies to patent genetic sequences found in plants and animals. The Netherlands, supported in its action by Italy and Norway, said that the law meant that plants, animals and parts of the human body could be patented. But the court found that the law meant that "only the result of inventive, scientific or technical work could be patented and human genetic matter could be patented where necessary for the achievement and exploitation of a particular industrial application". The law is even opposed by pressure groups such as Greenpeace, who say that biopatents allow businesses to exploit naturally occurring genetic material.

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