Over 30 organisations from the agricultural, environmental, religious and developmental policy sectors demonstrated today in Munich against patents on life and genetic engineering in agriculture. The demonstration was held because the the deadline issued by the European Patent Office (EPO) ends today for the public to submit questions on the patenting of plants and animals from conventional breeding.
„The German Federal Parliament and the European Patent Office have clearly spoken out against patents on dairy cows and vegetables – but these kinds of patents are still being granted. The interests of farmers and consumers are being sold off to industry“, says Georg Jansen, chief executive of a German small farmers organisation (ABL). „The patent office has become subservient to industry“.
The European Patent Office has, in fact, never stopped granting patents on plants and animals as one example shows. Ruth Tippe, a member of the No Patents on Seeds! organisation, found in recent investigations that the patent examiners at the EPO decided in August they will grant a patent on lettuce soon. A Dutch company will then have a monopoly on lettuce that appears to stay fresh for longer but was bred using conventional traditional methods (EP1973396) the process of which could not be patented.
The future could actually look much worse. The EU is planning a new unitary patent that accelerates the patenting procedure and substantially increases the cost of oppositions raised by non-governmental organisations.