Europe patent office head resignation called for over seed, plant patents


Local variety of Swiss potatoes – but who really owns them?

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – A coalition of some 100 non-governmental organizations, including the Berne Declaration and Swissaid, are demanding that the head of the European Patent Office (EPO), Benoît Battistelli, resign immediately. The groups, under the umbrella of No Patents on Seeds, says that Battistelli is behind a change in policy that will speed up approvals of individual plant and seed patents, mainly by multinationals, for plantlife obtained by conventional methods.

An ongoing dispute between the Euroopean Parliament and the EPO over granting patents for plant life has resulted in a slowing down of the patent approvals process, with only three seed patents granted in 2012 by the European Office, says the Berne Declaration in a statement issud 13 March.

This appears to be changing: “the EPO wants to approve, in the space of a few weeks, a dozen of these patents, on broccoli, onions and other vegetables. Syngenta, with three of these patents, is one of the main companies that stands to profit by these measures.” Monsanto is also cited by the group.

The groups opposed to more patents and the European Parliament argue that they increase farmers’ costs and thus food costs, as well as concentrating too few food supplies in the hands of just a few multinationals.