Worms, Mice, Cows and Pigs: The Importance of Animal Patents in Developing Countries

Jozwiak, Elisabeth T. | January 1, 1994

Transgenic animals play a large role in several critical industries: the pharmaceutical industry, the agricultural industry, farming, and medical research. As these biotechnology-oriented industries have grown, the United States and other industrialized nations have realized the importance of patent protection for genetically-engineered animals. Unfortunately, lesser-developed countries (LDCs), which can benefit the most from such industries, do not provide adequate patent protection for transgenic animals, even though patent protection for transgenic animals could ultimately lead to reduction in starvation and disease, two of the biggest problems facing many LDCs. The United States should pursue bilateral negotiations with developing countries in the area of animal patents to secure patent protection for transgenic animals. Because of their flexibility, bilateral agreements offer a better short-term solution than multilateral agreements. This comment first describes the methods for creating transgenic animals and the importance of these animals. Second, this article outlines the current state of animal patents in industrialized countries and the various controversies those countries have faced during the development of their current policies. Third, this article explains and refutes the arguments advanced by developing countries to support their lack of adequate patent protection for transgenic animals. Finally, this article shows that the best short-term solution to align the views of the industrialized countries with those of the various developing countries are bilateral agreements rather than multilateral agreements.