well it's spring now, but when will nature wake up around here?
i have something to report that is of very great urgency.
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: www.no-patents-on-seeds.org