New report: Patents on Plants and Animals

The new report of the NGO alliance No Patents On Seeds shows the latest developments on the patenting of plants. Around 2400 patents on plants and 1400 patents on animals have been granted in Europe since the 1980s. More than 7500 patent applications for plants and around 5000 patents for animals are pending. The EPO has already granted more than 120 patents on conventional breeding and about 1000 such patent applications are pending. The scope of many of the patents that have been granted is extremely broad and very often covers the whole food chain from production to consumption. These patents are an abuse of patent law, designed to take control of the resources needed for our daily living.

In this report, several cases of granted patents on conventional bred plants are presented. These included patents on peppers bred from wild varieties originating from Jamaica, tomatoes that were developed us­ing the international gene bank in Germany, melons using resources from India and a selection of wild relatives of soybeans found in Asia and Australia. Analyses of EPO decision-making in recent years show that prohibitions established in patent law of patents on plant and animal varieties and essentially biological processes i.e. conventional meth­ods of plant and animal breeding (Art 53 (b) of the European Patent Convention, EPC) have been systematically eroded.

European politicians have to act now! As a first step, Member States of the European Patent Office (EPO) should take initiative at the Administrative Council, which is the assembly representing the Member States of the EPO. It is the only institutional body that can change the current rules of patent law by amending the Implementing Regulation to the European Patent Convention. On the midterm, the European Patent law should be changed to exclude all breeding processes and breeding material, plants, animals, genetic resources, native traits and food derived thereof from patentability.