Patent industry selling out future of our food
27 October 2014
Amongst the patents granted recently, are 'inventions' such as peppers bred from wild varieties originating from Jamaica, tomatoes that were developed through sourcing the international gene bank in Germany, sunflowers from random mutagenesis and a selection of wild relatives of soybeans found in Asia and Australia.
“Industry together with the EPO are the driving factors turning the patent system into an instrument for misappropriation of basic resources needed to produce our daily food. They are selling out future of our food”, warns Christoph Then, one of the authors of the report. “By restricting access to genetic resources, EPO patent practice is severely hampering innovation and breeding. Furthermore, it is endangering agro-biodiversity and adaptability in food production systems needed to react to the challenges of climate change. As a consequence, we are putting our global food security as well as regional food sovereignty at risk.”
According to European patent law, plant and animal varieties as well as processes for breeding plants and animals cannot be patented. Nevertheless, decision-making at the EPO has, in fact, intentionally created a situation full of legal absurdities that allows prohibitions to be circumvented, and serves the interests of multinationals such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta, who already control around 50 percent of the international commercial seed market. Apart from the EPO, patent attorneys are amongst those that benefit financially from an increasing number of patents. In 2013, the EPO made a profit of 1.5 Billion € from patent and procedural fees.
The new report has been published just a few days ahead of a crucial hearing at the EPO on 27 October. Many observers expect the EPO to make a landmark decision on these cases within the next few months. However, as the report shows, it is highly unlikely that the EPO will stop patents on plants and animals, no matter how currently pending cases are decided. For this reason, the international coalition of No Patents on Seeds!, together with many other organisations, calls for a public demonstration outside the EPO on the day of the hearing, where it will demand that European governments take action to stop patents on plants and animals. Included in the coalition of No Patents on Seeds! are Bionext (Netherlands), The Berne Declaration (Switzerland), GeneWatch (UK), Greenpeace, Misereor (Germany), Development Fund (Norway), No Patents on Life (Germany), Red de Semillas (Spain), Rete Semi Rurali (Italy), Reseau Semences Paysannes (France) and Swissaid (Switzerland). No Patents on Seeds! is calling for a revision of European Patent Law to exclude breeding material, plants and animals and food derived thereof from patentability. The coalition is supported by several hundred other organisations.