In a rare show of unity, conservative and liberal Christians are lining up together to fight the patenting of a mouse that has been genetically altered so it will easily get cancer.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Council of Churches were granted intervener status this week in a Supreme Court of Canada case that will decide whether the creators of the mouse can obtain a patent to a higher life form.
The Christians argue patenting of mammals "commodifies and objectifies life." It would also give the patent holder special rights, the Christians say, without putting any onus on the patent holder to respect the health of animals. "We humans didn't invent mice, bears or salmon," said Janet Somerville, general secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, which represents Canada's mainline Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox denominations. "We are fellow creatures with them," Somerville said. "Can we patent a fellow creature, even if we have caused it to change genetically?"
Gary Walsh, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which represents more than 200 conservative denominations, said Christians have to take a stand on the contentious moral issues raised by advancing biotechnology.
The cutting-edge case involving the Harvard Mouse has been working its way through Canada's courts since 1997. The Harvard University creators of the cancer-prone mouse initially won a Canadian patent on the process for producing the mouse's genetic anomalies, but were turned down on the mouse itself.
When Harvard appealed, the Federal Court upheld the patent office's decision. But Canada's Federal Court of Appeal then overturned the lower court's decision and granted the patent. The patent office has now appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, saying a mouse is not "an invention." The case is expected to be heard next year.