17 November 2010 The Coalition will introduce a Private Member’s Bill into the House of Representatives to prevent patents being taken out on human genes.
The Bill will be co-sponsored by the Independent Member for Lyne, Mr Rob Oakeshott.
Shadow Minister for Health Peter Dutton announced the move at a news conference with the Patron of the National Breast Cancer Foundation Sarah Murdoch and the CEO of the Cancer Council of Australia Professor Ian Olver in Canberra today.
A similar Bill will be introduced into the Senate by Coalition Senator Bill Heffernan and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon.
Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton described the co-sponsorship of the Bills and their introduction into both Houses of Parliament as a “landmark day”.
Gene patents have been controversial across the world since the first patents were granted.
Earlier this year an American court overturned patents on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer and subsequently the US Government reversed a long standing policy when it declared that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature.
Patents are held on the same genes in Australia and scientists have argued that the patents hinder medical testing and further research.
Mr Dutton said the Private Members Bill would clarify Australian patent law so that patents could not be taken out on genes.
“Human genes are naturally occurring, they are not invented in a laboratory, they can be discovered but not invented. The Bill will ensure that patents can only be taken out for inventions, not discoveries.”
Mr Dutton said introduction of such a Bill was long overdue and the action would provide certainty which did not exist at the moment.
He said once introduced the Bill would be referred immediately to a committee for inquiry to ensure that there were no unintended consequences flowing from it.
Media contact – John Wiseman 02 6277 4884 – 0429 983 618