Global alert against ‘Monsantosizing’ our food

UN General Assembly to discuss patents on seeds and right to food

Today a global alert is being filed by farmers and development and environmental organisations warning about a new class of patents covering plants and animals and endangering innovation and food security. It is being presented on just the same day as the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, is presenting his new report in front of the UN General Assembly, warning that seed patents might increase food crises. New rules to restrict patents on seeds and animals therefore have to be enacted urgently.
The global appeal is being filed by the international coalition “no patents on seeds”, organised and supported by farmers and development and environmental organisations. The alert is directed at governments, parliaments and patent offices like the European Patent Office, and warns about a new class of patents covering plants and animals derived from conventional breeding. These patents even claim harvests and derived food products such as milk, butter and bread. By speaking of ‘Monsantosizing’ the signatories are warning that the whole chain from seed to food production might be controlled by a few big international companies like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, leading to a process of oligopolies and increasing concentration.

"A radical change in both patent legislation and the practice of patent offices is needed to eliminate patents on plants and farm animals," says François Meienberg of the Berne Declaration. "Corporations should not be allowed to continue to misappropriate and monopolise seeds, plants and farm animals via patent law. If they are, these patents will become a major threat to global food security, food sovereignty and innovation.”

The alert was initiated by the organisations Berne Declaration, Swissaid, Misereor No Patents on Life , Greenpeace and The Development Fund (Norway), and is supported by farmer organisations from Europe, South America and Asia. They include Coldiretti in Italy, COAG in Spain, dairy farmers from Germany, Federación Agraria Argentina and Bharat Krishak Samaj, an Indian farmer organisation. “The big companies are about to control seed, harvest, trade and even food production,” warns Luis Contigiani at Federación Agraria Argentina. “We can see how Monsanto tries to license fees on soy production , imposing embargoes on European importers of Argentinian soy and derivatives based on patents that are not valid in our country. This is an example of the consequences when genetic resources are subjected to the logic of monopolisation by patent rights.”

In a vein very similar to the global alert, the background report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food (A/64/170), Olivier de Schutter, raises concerns that seed patents might increase food crises. As it explains: “The oligopolistic structure of the input providers’ market may result in poor farmers being deprived of access to seeds, a productive resources essential for their livelihoods, and it could raise the price of food, thus making food less affordable for the poorest.”

The No Patents on Seeds coalition and its supporting farmers' organisations welcome the UN report. “We will keep on fighting against patents on seeds and animals,” says Miguel López Sierra, General Secretary of COAG , one of the biggest European farmers’ organisations. “We are urging the European Union and the European Patent Office to stop granting these patents, which steal the common goods of farmers and traditional breeders. The concerns as raised by farmers, NGOs and the report of the United Nations no longer can be ignored.”