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This work documents an international and interdisciplinary workshop, held in January 1996, on the ethical aspects of the patenting of biotechnical inventions. The workshop was organized in the framework of a research project funded by DG XII of the Commission of the European Communities. The purpose of the workshop was to gather round the table the diverse parties involved in the debate about biotechnology patents, to see to what extent they could get closer to a consensus or a compromise. The work includes contributions from Greenpeace and animal welfare societies, genetic societies, moral philosophers, patent lawyers, and politicians from European countries and the US.;The general public perception of biotechnology is discussed and how these perceptions relate to the ethical, social and cultural factors. The legal framework is laid out by several experts in the field of patent law, and the situation in the US is also described. Attention is focused on the European Commission's proposal for a ""Directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions"" since rejection of the previous text on ethical grounds in 1995.