In May 2013, the European Patent Office (EPO) granted a patent to Syngenta claiming insect-resistant pepper and chilli plants derived from conventional breeding (EP2140023). The patent covers the plants, fruits and seeds and even claims the growing and harvesting of the plants as an invention. The pepper plants were produced by crossing a wild pepper plant (with the insect resistance) from Jamaica with commercially produced pepper plants. Marker genes that go along with the desired insect resistance were identified. Although this kind of insect resistance already existed in nature, Syngenta was nevertheless able to claim the insect- resistant pepper plants, their seeds, and their fruits as an invention. The patent covers all steps of breeding and use of the plants, including selection, growing of the plants and harvesting the seeds and all relevant plant varieties. The patent granted to Syngenta was opposed with the support of NO PATENTS ON SEEDS! in February 2014 by a coalition of 34 NGOs, including farmers’ organisations and breeders from 28 countries. In 2018, the decision about the patent is still pending. In January 2018, the EPO asked the parties to comment on the changes in the Implementing Regulations (European Patent Convention) as of June 2017 in regards to the pepper patent.
The public hearing, originally scheduled for 7 March 2019, was cancelled by the EPO. A new date has not been set yet.