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Burning patent issues – protest at the European Patent Office in München

Geplaatst in: Gentech - Activiteiten | 0
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The industry is increasingly applying for patents on conventionally bred plants and animals – over a thousand of such applications for the European market have been submitted already. These patents cause further monopolisation of the food market, threatening biodiversity, the freedom and livelihood of farmers, breeders, researchers and in the end, the food security of all. The industry is basically privatising the common heritage of many generations (biopiracy) and the EPO is enabling them to do so. The independence and democratic structure of the EPO is pretty dubious; financially the institute relies almost entirely on the fees on applications and patents paid by the industry, and there is no independent monitoring of their activities and decisions.

During the protest hundreds of copies of these applications and patents on life forms went through shredders and into the fire. The petition ‘Stop Monsantosizing Food, Seeds and Animals”, which more than 100.000 people signed, was handed over to an EPO official.

The EPO hearing continued until the end of Wednesday the 21st. It is not known when the Board will reach a decision in the case.
The only thing that makes sense is when these ridiculous life patents are trashed: The day’s protest ended with the organisation of the demonstration, No Patents on Seeds, donating two patent rubbish bins to the EPO office.

More background information about those patent cases you can read in the press release below which was sent out for the action day.

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press release for the action day:
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Protest action at the European Patent Office in Munich on patents for food

ImageMunich, July 20, 2010 – The coalition “No-patents-on-seeds” is protesting today against the patenting of seeds, plants, animals and food at the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich. A SEED is present to contribute and report. The occasion is the first hearing with regard to a fundamental decision on the nature of European patents.

On the basis of patents granted on broccoli and tomatoes, and the food products made from them, the Patent Office will decide whether natural resources can continue to be claimed as “inventions“. In a symbolic action the demonstrators are destroying copies of patent applications in shredders at the site. More than 1000 applications for patents on food have been submitted to the EPO. The coalition expects that the EPO will not revoke the controversial patents.

“If patents on broccoli and tomatoes are not banned, the floodgates will open wide,” said Christoph Then, Greenpeace’s expert on patents. “A handful of agrobusinesses and food corporations can have control in future over all food production, increasing dependency and raising prices for farmers and consumers. The sell-off of the natural basis of life can be stopped now only through new patent laws.” The alliance has already gathered 100,000 signatures [1]from citizens supporting a legal ban on patents for seeds, plants and animals.

The English biotech company Plant Bioscience Limited has held a patent since 2002 on broccoli with a high content of glucosinolates. These bitter-tasting components lend broccoli its typical flavour and are also supposed to be anti-carcinogenic. Two agrobusinesses filed an opposition at the EPO against the patent on this lucrative broccoli. Another opposition has been filed against the patent on the so-called wrinkled tomato; this patent covers the breeding and marketing of a tomato with low water content which is easy to process industrially. However, the EPO in May confirmed a patent on sunflowers which encompasses seeds, the plant and patent protection for sunflower oil.

“Limits have to be set at last for the EPO”, said Bell Batta Torheim from the Development Fund, an environmental and development organisation. “An office that plays by its own rules and is financed by patent fees will in case of doubt confirm any patent. No-patents-on-seeds has been informing the public of scandalous patents granted by the EPO for several years. European patent laws must be amended so that this kind of patenting finally stops.”

Elly Janssen from A SEED: “In recent years there is worrying new trend to apply for patents on seeds and animals that have been bred conventionally. Patent law should be adapted now to ban patenting of life in any way possible.”

On Monday July 19th, No Patents on Seeds organised the international conference “Patents on Seeds – The Turning Point” in Munich, Germany [2]. Researchers and representatives from farmers and civil organisations  discussed current trends regarding patents on seeds and animals, highlighting the negative impacts of the current system, the changes that would be needed and possibilities for effecting those changes. No Patents on Seeds is a European coalition consisting of NGO’s that have united with farmers to call a halt to the ever expanding privatisation of life.

The Netherlands have in important position in the international seed market. A majority of the Dutch breeders opposes strongly the current patent law which will lead to further monopolisation of the seed market, frustrate innovation and severely restrict breeders, farmers and researchers to do their job. In response the Dutch Government has called for a thorough investigation of the matter. The resulting report ‘Veredelde Zaken’ concluded that patent law can only go ahead with major exemptions, and important alterations to the European Directive [3]. The Dutch Parliament called for follow up research and firm action [4]. One of the authors of the report was keynote speaker at the Conference on Monday. The governments of Germany and the Netherlands have also announced that they will do all they can in Brussels to see through more stringent European laws on patents. No-patents-on-seeds is calling for a ban on patents for seeds, plants, animals, their genes and breeding material. In April 2010 A SEED published the brochure ‘You reap what you sow’ on monopolisation in the seed industry [5].

Notes:
[1] See call here: http://www.no-patents-on-seeds.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=93&Itemid=56

[2] See A SEED press release here: https://www.aseed.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=769&Itemid=216

[3] Dutch Report Veredelde Zaken:
www.minlnv.nl/portal/page?_pageid=116,1640330&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL&p_file_id=2000541

[4] Article by organic chain organisation Biologica:
https://www.aseed.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=768&Itemid=174

[5] A SEED Europe is an international action group located in Amsterdam, The Nehterlands. A SEED fights for truely  sustainable and fair food production and is part of the growing movement for sustainable agriculture and food sovereighnty in Europe. Download brochure ‘You reap what you sow’ here:
https://www.aseed.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=746&Itemid=234