21 October 2009

No Patents on Seeds...or We're Really Stuffed

Good to see that I'm not a lone voice crying in the wilderness:

The continuing patenting of seeds, conventional plant varieties and animal species leads to far-reaching expropriations of farmers and breeders: farmers are deprived of their rights to save their seeds, and breeders are under strong limitations to use the patented seeds freely for further breeding. The patent holder controlls the sale of the seeds and the planting, decides about the use of herbicides and can even collect royalties at the harvest – up to the finished food product.

Our food security is increasingly dependent on a few transnational chemical and biotechnological companies.

The European Patent Office (EPO) has continuasly broadened the scope of patentability and undermined existing restrictions, in the interest of multinational companies.

Allthough plant varieties and animal species are by law exempt from patentability several hundret patents on genetically modified plants have been granted already. Basis for these decissions is the highly controversial EU Biotech Patents directive and a decission by the EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeal, which ruled in 1999 that in principle such patents could be granted.

Now the European Patent Office again has to deal with a basic question: Patents on conventional plants and animals!

The Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO will use a patent on broccoli (EP 1069819) for a fundamental ruling, on whether or not conventional plants are patentable. The broccoli in question was merely diagnosed using marker assisted breeding methods to identify its natural occuring genes. The genes were not modified. All other broccoli plants with similar genes are considered as "technical inventions“ by the patent. Thus even their use for breeding and the plants themselves are monopolised. Through this the provision which prohibits the patenting of "essentially biological proceses" is to be undermined. The EPO has already granted similar patents: e.g.: only recently the company Enza Zaden Beheer received a patents on pathogene resitant lettuce ( EP1179089B1)

Should the Enlarged Board of Appeal uphold the patent, then this decission (case T0083/05) will be binding for all other pending patent applications and even for animals and their offspring.

This exactly parallels the situation with software patents, where the EPO is using every trick in the book to approve them; except it's even worse.

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Sassinak said...

It's not a problem until it reaches the upper-class.
Eventually, we will only eat at McD, and gorging ourselves will be as easy and simple as showing up at the trough. I wonder, how are we coming along at recycling (or re-investing) human protein ? Someone will eventually think of serving up patented chimp steak.

Glyn Moody said...

@anabel: please don't give them ideas...

Sassinak said...

@glynn moody
I'm sorry, but cannibalism is a very recurring theme in sci-fi. And it would make perfectly poetic ecological justice/sense. Homo homini lupus after all. (Allright, I'm making myself shudder!)