European Patent Office upholds patents on broccoli and tomato
Patents on plants and animals derived from conventional breeding can also be granted in future
Munich 27 March, 2015 The Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) decided on the precedent cases of broccoli and tomato (G2 / 12 and G2 /13). The EPO made clear that plants and animals stemming from conventional breeding can be patented. On the other hand, patent law prohibits patents on processes for breeding, such as crossing and selection. This quite illogical decision was a long awaited outcome of a precedent case upon patentability of plants and animals derived from conventional breeding. The coalition of No Patents on Seeds! heavily criticises this decision. The organisations are warning about the increasing monopolization of breeding of plants and animals needed for food production.
“The EPO has paved the way for companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and others to take control over those resources we all need for our daily living. We call upon European governments to put political pressure on the EPO to change its practice”, says Christoph Then for No Patents on Seeds! “No company should hold monopolies on sunlight, air or water. The same is true for the resources needed for food production.”
While the European Parliament as well as a few governments such as Germany, France and The Netherlands are apparently aware of the problem and taking some measures, the EU Commission and most Member States of the EPO remain mostly inactive. The coalition of No Patents on Seeds! now calls for immediate political action: “We now need a clear reaction from politicians. The current situation cannot be solved by just doing nothing”, Christoph Then says for No Patents on Seeds!
There are several possibilities to overcome the current decision: One possibility is for European governments to take the initiative at the Administrative Council of the EPO, which can change the interpretation of current patent law by amending the Implementation Regulation of the EPO. This could be done in the short-term. Another possibility is that EU Commission issues a legally binding interpretation of existing law that stops the further granting of patents on plants and animals from conventional breeding within the EU. In the mid-term a change in the European Patent Directive, to prohibit patents on plants and animals in general, is regarded as decisive.
The organisations behind the coalition of No Patents on Seeds! are concerned that patents on plant and animal breeding will foster further market concentration, erode small breeding companies, making farmers and other stakeholders of the food supply chain even more dependent on just a few big international companies and ultimately reduce consumer choice. The coalition of No Patents on Seeds! is organised by 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). They are 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.