ROME, October 20, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An array of pro-life and family groups in Europe have applauded a decision by the European Court of Justice that banned scientists from patenting technologies that require the destruction of human embryos. The Commission of (Catholic) Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), the World Youth Alliance and two of Ireland’s leading groups, Youth Defence, and Pro-Life Campaign, have all welcomed the decision that would protect human embryos from “any use that undermined human dignity.”

Rebecca Roughneen of Ireland’s Youth Defence told LifeSiteNews.com, “Clearly the court felt it could not ignore the unanimous scientific opinion which agrees that life begins at conception, and that the destruction of the human embryos could not therefore be supported.”

“The ruling is very specific: it says that ‘a process which involves removal of a stem cell from a human embryos at the blastocyst stage, entailing the destruction of that embryo, cannot be patented’.”

“We’re pressing for the Irish government to introduce a ban on research on human embryos, and this ruling will certainly help that campaign,” Roughneen added.

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The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice upheld a 2008 decision of the EU patent office, saying the definition of a human embryo includes a “fertilized egg.” The ruling is binding on all 27 EU member states and strengthens the existing prohibition on the patenting of embryonic stem cell research.

The COMECE bishops called the ruling, “a milestone in the protection of Human life in EU legislation.”

“This judgment…provides a broad, scientific sound definition of a human embryo.

“Indeed, fertilization marks the beginning of the biological existence of a human being that undergoes a process of development. Therefore the human embryo, at every stage of development, must be considered a human being with potential, and not just a ‘potential human being’.”

Ireland’s Pro-Life Campaign called the ruling, “welcome and significant” and “a vindication of the inherent rights of the human embryo.”

Spokesman Dr. Ruth Cullen said, “The ruling …established the principle that the human embryo is human from the moment of conception.

“EU Directive 98/44/EC had already prohibited the commercialisation of research based on human embryos, but it had not spelled out clearly what EU law regarded as a human embryo.”

Marie-Caroline Leroux, Europe Director for World Youth Alliance, commented, “The Court’s decision reaffirms that Europe’s highest authorities uphold the worth and principle of non-commercialization of the human person despite a long series of attempts by stem cell research supporters.”

The humanity of embryos, although agreed on in the scientific community, has been at the center of a long dispute over the legality of the commercialization of research involving the destruction of embryos.

The new ruling says that the human embryo is an organism “capable of commencing the process of development of a human being,” however it was created, whether naturally or by cloning.

“A non-fertilised human ovum into which the cell nucleus from a mature human cell has been transplanted and a non-fertilised human ovum whose division and further development have been stimulated by parthenogenesis must also be classified as a ‘human embryo’,” it says. Patents will only be granted if the procedures are of direct benefit to the embryo itself.