Global Appeal Against Patents On Conventional Seeds And Farm Animals

Posted on Tuesday, March 27 at 20:17 by Milton
The upcoming fundamental decission is a ruling by the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO which will decide on the validity of a patent on broccoli (EP 1069819 B1). The approval of this patent would mean that in future a mere genetic description of a plant or animal would be sufficient to receive a patent covering the plant or animal as well as methods for their production. The breeding of those plants and animals as well as their agricultural use could also be controlled by the patent holder. The decision of the EPO can be expected for this year. Would patents on conventional breeding methods of plants and animals be generally allowed, then legal challenges of individual patents would become ineffective. "Validating the patent on the broccoli would mean a total and final sellout of living nature" says Christoph Then from Greenpeace. "Patent law is becoming an octopus crabbing the basis for our food production, plants and animals, to bring them under the control of a few multinational companies." Next Wednesday representatives of the coalition will attend a public hearing of an appeal procedure at the EPO, concerning a patent on conventional sunflower seeds. On Thursday the alliance will also call upon an EU patent conference organised by the German Council Presidency in Berlin ( to protect European agriculture from further encroachments by patents. Further farmers' organisations from Spain, Switzerland, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico and Brazil have already joined the Global Appeal. Further information: Dr. Christoph Then (Greenpeace), Tel. +49-171-8780832; Tina Goethe (Swissaid), Tel. +41-76-5165957; Mute Schimpf (Misereor), Tel. +49-172-1704891 and,,, and ________________________________________________________ THE GLOBAL APPEAL A Global Appeal against patents on conventional seeds and farm animals A joint Open Letter addressed to Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office, Government Representatives, The Executive Boards of Agrobusiness Companies Keep out patents on conventional seeds and animals For several years, patents on genetically modified seeds and animals have been granted worldwide. The damaging impacts on farmers, who are deprived of their rights to save their seeds, and on breeders who can no longer use the patented seeds freely for further breeding, are well known. In Canada and the US, for example, the multinational seed company Monsanto has sued many farmers for alleged patent infringements. The same company has also filed court cases against importers of Argentinean soy to Europe. Furthermore, the possibility of patenting seeds has fostered a highly concentrated market structure with only 10 multinational companies controlling about half of the international seed market. Many farmers organisations and NGOs around the world are fighting against these patents. Because genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are still not grown in most countries, or only used in a small number of crops, the negative impacts of these patents are not being felt everywhere. However, there is an alarming new trend for patents not only to be claimed on GMOs (such as Roundup Ready soybeans), but also on conventional plants. For example, patent claims have been made for soy beans with a better oil quality covering parts of the plant genome when used in conventional breeding and technologies to improve conventional breeding (such as marker assisted breeding). Some of the most threatening examples in this context are patent applications from Syngenta which claim huge parts of the rice genome and its use in breeding of any food crops that have similar genomic information to rice (such as maize and wheat). The European Patent Office has also granted a patent on aphid resistant composite plants which are based on marker assisted breeding. Other recent patent applications by Monsanto on pigs are also related to normal breeding methods, indicating the increasing danger of agricultural genetic resources becoming monopolised by a few multinationals on a global scale. Soon the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office will decide on another patent of this kind -- for a method of increasing a specific compound in Brassica species. This decision will determine the patentability of conventional seeds in Europe. Whereas patents on conventional plant varieties are normal practice in the US, many other countries, especially developing countries, do not grant patents on plants or animals. But as the recent history shows, the standards defined and used at the European, Japanese and US patent offices influence international regulations (the WTO agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, TRIPS, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO). Patent offices all over the world are pushed to adapt their regulations and practices either through the international regulations or by bilateral agreements. India, for example, has just passed a third patent amendment in order to adapt its law to the TRIPS regulations. This frightening new trend in patent policy will affect many more farmers and breeders, than has been the case with GMO patents. Any remaining farmers rights and breeders' access to plant varieties and animal breeds for breeding purposes, will disappear everywhere. These patents will destroy a system of farmers' rights and breeders' privileges that has been shown to be crucial for the survival of farmers and breeders, for food sovereignty, and for the preservation of biodiversity in agriculture. The vast majority of farmers in developing countries are small-scale farmers, completely reliant on saving and exchanging their seeds. In order to secure the continued existence of independent farming, breeding and livestock keeping and hence the food security of future generations, we, the undersigned farmers, researchers, breeders and civil society organisations from all over the world, restate our rejection of any patents on life, and urge policy makers and patent offices to act swiftly to stop any patents being granted on conventionally bred plants and animals and on gene sequences for use with conventional breeding technique, as well as on methods for the conventional breeding of plants and animals. We also urge companies not to apply for any patents of this kind. If your organisation wants to sign this Global Appeal, click here: Further information and background materials are available at the campaign website: ________________________________________________________ ABOUT BIO-IPR -- BIO-IPR is an irregular listserver produced by GRAIN. Its purpose is to circulate news and information about recent developments in the field of intellectual property rights related to biodiversity and associated knowledge. BIO-IPR is a strictly non-commercial and educational service for nonprofit organisations and individuals active in the struggle against IPRs on life. The views expressed in each post are those of the indicated author(s). ARCHIVES -- The full archives are online at SUBSCRIPTIONS -- To subscribe or modify your subscription details, please go to and either join or login. (Those without web access can send a blank message to SUBMISSIONS -- To submit material for posting on BIO-IPR, or any questions about the list, please contact us at ABOUT US -- GRAIN is a small international NGO working to strengthen farmers' control over agricultural biodiversity and local knowledge, particularly in developing countries. For more information about GRAIN, please visit [Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on March 28, 2007]


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