European Patent Office issues broccoli decision

Europe rejects patents on breeding of plants and animals

10 December 2010 / The decision is binding for all similar cases. But observers are warning that plants and animals derived from conventional breeding will still be patented, since the decision of the European Patent Office only excludes processes for breeding but does not concern itself with patents on plants and animals.

“This decision goes in the right direction, but it is not clear what the final impact of this decision will be," says Christoph Then from the international coalition No Patents on Seeds and patent expert for Greenpeace. "This is not the final decision on the broccoli patent itself. So far only the process for breeding plants and animals is judged as being not patentable. But it is still unclear if the patent claims on the plants, seed and edible parts of the broccoli will be revoked in the end. The patent office has not yet taken a final decision on the patent."

"In general, patent law is in extreme danger of being abused for the misappropriation of the very basic resources for daily living. What is now needed is a clear signal from institutions in the EU that the interests of farmers, traditional breeders and consumers will be protected by clear legal regulations that exclude patents on plants and animals.”says Bell Batta Torheim from Norwegian Development Fund which is part of the Coalition of No Patents On Seeds.

Many experts have been warning that patents on plants and animals are creating new dependencies for farmers and consumers and that innovation in plant and animal breeding will be blocked, while multinationals will be able to take control over global food production. The intention of agrochemical companies in this context can be exemplified by Monsanto's patent applications of. The company has already filed several patent applications on meat and food products derived from cattle, pigs and fish if the animals are fed genetically plants. The company very recently applied for a similar patent on poultry and eggs.

“What is needed is a clear legal prohibition on granting patents on plants and animals, on processes for breeding, relevant biological material and the food derived. The decision of the EPO can only be considered as a first step, now legislation has to come up with a clear regulation.” Francois Meienberg from Berne Declaration in Switzerland member of the coalition No Patents on Seeds.

The No Patents on Seeds coalition is organised by the Berne Declaration, Greenpeace, Misereor, No Patents on Life, Swissaid and the Norwegian Development Fund, and campaigns for a clear regulation in patent law. Their initiative is supported globally by over 300 NGOs and farmers’ organisations, and has collected about 100.000 signatures against patents on plants and animals. The coalition now urges the institutions of the EU to go for clear legal regulations to exclude plants and animals from patentability.