Slaughter raises issues with patent bill's extension to human genome

Patent legislation that's expected to clear the House this week could allow the patenting of human genes, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) argued on the House floor Wednesday.

Slaughter said the bill jeopardizes the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits health insurance companies and employers from discriminating based on genetic information. The bill, which Slaughter calls her "greatest legislative accomplishment," became law in 2008.

"If I didn't already have enough complaints against this manager's amendment, I want to call attention to the House that after 13 years of work, we finally got genetic nondiscrimination passed in this Congress so that people could feel free to have genetic tests," Slaughter said. "This manager's amendment for the first time talks about the patenting of human genes. That must never, ever happen."

The House approved the rule by a largely party-line, 239-186 vote Wednesday afternoon (eight Republicans voted against it and 13 Democrats voted yes), paving the way for consideration of the bill to start later in the day.