Global appeal against patents on conventional seeds and farm animals
Date: Tuesday, March 27 2007
AUTHORS: Greenpeace, Swissaid, Misereor, Berne Declaration and No Patents
PUBLICATION: Press release, sign-on statement and new website
DATE: 26 March 2007
GLOBAL APPEAL AGAINST PATENTS ON SEEDS AND FARM ANIMALS
Farmers' organisations and NGO's mobilise against the European Patent
Office in Munich, Germany
Munich, 26.3.2007 -- A new international coalition of farmers' unions,
development and environmental NGOs today is calling for a global
prohibition of patents on seeds and farm animals. Farmers increasingly
become dependent on multinational corporations, which own patents on
seeds and animals. The European Patent Office (EPO) has already granted
hundreds of patents on genetically modified and as well as conventional,
normal plants. Now the EPO is preparing a general approval of patents on
conventional breeding methods and normal plants and animals. In Munich,
the seat of the EPO, Misereor, Swissaid, the Declaration of Berne, No
Patents on Life! and Greenpeace as well as the farmers' unions from
Italy (Coldiretti), Argentina (Federación Agraria Argentina) and India
(Bharat Krishak Samaj) today launch the GLOBAL APPEAL and a joint
website http://www.no-patents-on-seeds.org against this fundamental
decission by the EPO.
"Our animals and our seeds are the result of hundreds of years of
breeding efforts by our farmers, and must not be patented," says Krishan
Bir Chaudhary, Executive Chairman of the largest Indian farmers'
organisation BKS -- Bharat Krishak Samaj, today in Munich. "The
multinational companies expropriate farmers and want to bring
everything, from the field to the consumer, under their own control."
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
"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
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 (http://www.bmj.bund.de/patkon) 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 http://www.greenpeace.de,
http://www.keinpatent.de, http://www.misereor.de, http://www.swissaid.ch
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,
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
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
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: http://www.no-patents-on-seeds.org
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[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on March 28, 2007]