By means of patents, agrochemical companies are attempting to assert their interests worldwide. In the process there is a danger that human rights such as the right to food and the right to health may fall by the wayside.
The increasing patenting of seeds, conventional plant varieties and breeds of farm animals means a far-reaching dispossession of farmers and breeders: farmers are no longer allowed to keep their seeds from the harvest, and breeders can only continue to work with patented seeds in a very restricted way.
One important actor in this area is the European Patent Office (EPO), which examines and grants European patents. The EPO was founded in 1977 on the basis of the European Patent Convention, and is the executive body of the European Patent Organisation, an intergovernmental institution. In addition to the EU Member States, Switzerland and a few other non-EU countries are members of the European Patent Organisation.
The EPO has expanded patentability more and more strongly in the last few years in the interests of the multinational groups, increasingly undermining the existing prohibitions on patents on plant varieties and biological processes. Our food security is increasingly in the hands of a few transnational chemical and biotechnology groups.
The report European Patent Office at Crossroads published in 2012 by the coalition No Patents on Seeds demonstrates this development with the help of the patents granted in the last few years. It describes the political and legal developments and examines the dangers of the EPO’s granting practices for breeders and consumers.
The Legal Situation in Switzerland
Decisions concerning infringements or invalidity of European patents fall under national jurisdiction. In 2007 the Swiss Parliament approved a new patent law which is based to a large extent on the European Biotechnology Directive. After five years of negotiations the pharmaceuticals industry was able to carry through the most important points. This was also the case regarding the especially controversial question of whether gene sequences are allowed to be patented and patent holders therefore have absolute protection that also includes other and even unknown applications.
NGO Coalition No Patents on Seeds
Public Eye, Greenpeace, Misereor, "Kein Patent auf Leben", Swissaid and the Development Fund of Norway together founded the coalition No Patents on Seeds. With support from many other organisations from all over the world they are committed to fighting against patents on plants and animals.
Thus for example in a petition which was signed by more than 70,000 individuals and several hundred organisations, the coalition called upon the members of the European Parliament and the European Commission to support a prohibition of patents on plants, animals and food, as well as breeding processes and reproductive materials. The petition was submitted to the President of the European Parliament on September 11th, 2012.
New Petition: Act now – Save the future of our food
The new Petition «No Patents on Plants and Animals» calls for an immediate amendment of the Implementing Regulation to the European Patent Convention and for a change in European Patent law to finally exclude all breeding processes and breeding material, plant and animal characteristics, gene sequences, plants and animals, as well as food derived thereof from patentability.
Get more information and sign the Petition «on no patents on seeds»!