BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission (EC) has been asked to sort out an apparent conflict between parallel legislative drafts on biotechnology in the European Union pipeline.

Two European Union (EU) proposals for biotechnology legislation appear to contradict one another, it emerged in mid-March.

The EU Council of Ministers has noted a draft EU regulation on plant variety rights provides for compulsory licenses uniquely on the grounds of public interest. But at the same time, the common position reached within the council on the draft regulation on legal protection of biotechnology inventions provides for the granting of compulsory licenses on patents and plant variety rights “for reasons other than public interest.“ (See BioWorld International, March 4, 1998, p. 1.)

Since the EC is responsible for making proposals for EU legislation and for ensuring overall coherency in application of EU law, the council has asked it to clarify this conflict urgently, and if necessary to bring forward an appropriate amending proposal. - Peter O'Donnell