“No patents on seeds” report gets strong backing from Swissaid, Bern Declaration

Fruit and wine from Switzerland, where resistance to patents on plants and animals is growing

BERN, SWITZERLAND – Two major Swiss organizations, humanitarian agency Swissaid and the non-profit group Bern Declaration, called Wednesday morning 4 April for “urgent political action” to be taken in light of the “No patents on seeds” report, made public today. The report indicates that despite a European Patent Office (EPO) decision at the highest level in 2010 to ban patents on plants and animals, a dozen such patents were issued in 2011.

Both groups are members of the No patents for seeds international coalition, which in a press release gives the background to patents issued in 2011:

“The report gives examples of patents on sunflowers, melons, cucumbers, rice and wheat. Patents were granted despite a decision of the highest court of the EPO (Enlarged Board of Appeal) in 2010, reaffirming the prohibition of patents on conventional breeding as written in European patent laws. As the new report shows, industry and examiners at the EPO are systematically using legal loopholes to grant patents on seeds, plants and even harvest and food products derived thereof. “

Some 100 requests were registered in 2011, the report shows, 12 of them successful, for patenting plants that are the result of traditional plant selection methods. This brings to 2,000 the number of plant patent and to 12,00 the number of animal patents, issued by the EPO at the end of 2011, with or without the genetic code patented as well.

In addition to the plant patents, another dozen were granted for “farm animal breeding claiming breeding material, sex selection, marker assisted selection, cloning or genetic engineering”, says the coalition.

“These patents restrict biodiversity, have a negative impact on innovation, reduce farmers’ options and make food suppliers and consumers more dependent on them,” says François Meienberg of the Bern Declaration in a press statement. “It’s urgent for European and Swiss lawmakers to put the brakes on this form of predatory pricing.”

Germany has passed a law against such patents.

“No patents for seeds” report, 4 April 2012 (English)