THE GLOBAL APPEAL
A Global Appeal against patents on conventional seeds and farm animals
A joint Open Letter addressed to
Keep out patents on conventional seeds and animals
For several years, patents on genetically modified seeds and animals have been granted worldwide. The damaging impacts on farmers, who are deprived of their rights to save their seeds, and on breeders who can no longer use the patented seeds freely for further breeding, are well known.
In Canada and the US, for example, the multinational seed company Monsanto has sued many farmers for alleged patent infringements.1 The same company has also filed court cases against importers of Argentinean soy to Europe.2 Furthermore, the possibility of patenting seeds has fostered a highly concentrated market structure with only 10 multinational companies controlling about half of the international seed market. Many farmers organisations and NGOs around the world are fighting against these patents. Because genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are still not grown in most countries, or only used in a small number of crops, the negative impacts of these patents are not being felt everywhere.
However, there is an alarming new trend for patents not only to be claimed on GMOs (such as Round-up ready soybeans), but also on conventional plants. For example, patent claims have been made for soy beans with a better oil quality3 covering parts of the plant genome when used in conventional breeding and technologies to improve conventional breeding (such as marker assisted breeding).
Some of the most threatening examples in this context are patent applications from Syngenta which claim huge parts of the rice genome4 and its use in breeding of any food crops that have similar genomic information to rice (such as maize and wheat).
The European Patent Office has also granted a patent on aphid resistant composite plants which are based on marker assisted breeding5. Other recent patent applications by Monsanto on pigs are also related to normal breeding methods6, indicating the increasing danger of agricultural genetic resources becoming monopolised by a few multinationals on a global scale.
Soon the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office will decide on another patent of this kind - for a method of increasing a specific compound in Brassica species7.
This decision will determine the patentability of conventional seeds in Europe.
Whereas patents on conventional plant varieties are normal practice in the US, many other countries, especially developing countries, do not grant patents on plants or animals. But as the recent history shows, the standards defined and used at the European, Japanese and US patent offices influence international regulations (the WTO agreement on trade related aspects of intellectual property rights, TRIPS , and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, WIPO). Patent offices all over the world are pushed to adapt their regulations and practices either through the international regulations or by bilateral agreements. India, for example, has just passed a third patent amendment in order to adapt its law to the TRIPS regulations.
This frightening new trend in patent policy will affect many more farmers and breeders, than has been the case with GMO patents. Any remaining farmers rights and breeders' access to plant varieties and animal breeds for breeding purposes, will disappear everywhere. These patents will destroy a system of farmers' rights and breeders' privileges that has been shown to be crucial for the survival of farmers and breeders, for food sovereignty, and for the preservation of biodiversity in agriculture. The vast majority of farmers in developing countries are small-scale farmers, completely reliant on saving and exchanging their seeds.
In order to secure the continued existence of independent farming, breeding and livestock keeping and hence the food security of future generations, we, the undersigned farmers, researchers, breeders and civil society organisations from all over the world, restate our rejection of any patents on life, and urge policy makers and patent offices to act swiftly to stop any patents being granted on conventionally bred plants and animals and on gene sequences for use with conventional breeding technique, as well as on methods for the conventional breeding of plants and animals. We also urge companies not to apply for any patents of this kind.
The Global Appeal is already signed by the following farmers' organisations:
To see further signatories Click here !
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