THE PIG MONOPOLY (Monsanto)
WO2005/015989 and WO2005/017204 - Pigs and herds of pigs
From 2005 on, the US company Monsanto filed about a dozen global patent applications on normal pigs and related breeding methods.
The patents were published in February 2005 at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva. There are more than 160 countries mentioned where the patents should be granted, such as in Europe, Russian Federation, Asia (India, China, Philippines) America (USA, Brazil, Mexico), Australia and New Zealand. WIPO itself can only receive applications, but does not grant any patents; it will forward the applications to regional patent offices in the US, Europe or elsewhere. At this stage the patents are not granted yet, but they could be accepted for example under European and US Regulation.
Most patents are based on very simple procedures, but are incredibly broad in their claims.
Here we give two examples:
WO 2005/015989 covers the idea how to combine the normal elements of breeding and claims whole herds of animals.
In WO 2005/015989 (EP1651030 A0 - Method for genetic improvement of terminal boars) Monsanto describes general methods of pig breeding, such as normal crossing and selecting methods, using artificial insemination and other methods which are already in use. The main so-called „invention“ is a certain way to combine these elements to speed up breeding for animals that are better in meat quality, health or in other economical aspects. The patent covers the idea how to combine the different elements of breeding but also claims the whole animals and even herds of animals used for breeding.
Some quotes from the patent claims:
Claim 43: A target herd produced using a method according to ...
Claim 53: A swine production (SP) herd produced using ...
This means not only a certain of breeding practises will be monopolized, but the whole animals as such will be subjected to the patent.
WO 2005/017204 refers to genetic diagnosis of pigs for a certain gene, which is related to faster growth. Not only the method is claimed but also the animals and herds of animals are subjected to the claims.
WO 2005/017204 (EP165777A3 Use single nucleotide polymorphsm in the coding region of the porcine leptin receptor gene to enhance pork production) refers to genetic diagnosis of pigs for a certain gene, which is related to faster growth. There is a certain variation of a natural occurring gene sequence, related to gaining weight that was first identified in mice and humans. Monsanto wants to use this gene for screening pig populations to find animals with conditions that are likely to enhance pork production by better uptake and conversion rate of feed. But again, not only the method is claimed but also the specific genetic information related to the breeding method and the whole animals are subjected to the claims.
Claim 16: A pig offspring produced by a method...
Claim 17: A pig herd having an increased frequency of a specific ...gene...
Claim 23: A pig population produced by the method...
Claim 30: A swine herd produced by a method...
This means the pigs and their offspring, as well as the use of the genetic information for breeding would be monopolized by Monsanto. If the patent were granted as originally filed it would apply to pig breeding almost without restrictions.
However, after heavy protest against this patent by farmers and breeders, and after the EPO issued a critical examination report, Monsanto changed the claims in the European patent application in december 2006: in Europe pigs and gene sequences are no longer part of the application. The application is still under review at the EPO, but this is already a big success for the European farmers and NGOs.
However, on 16 July 2008 European Patent EP 1651777 was granted.
Greenpeace Germany and the initiative "No Patents on Life!" as well as some German farmer organisations are preparing to file a joint opposition and already several hundred people have joined the opposition.Support this opposition against this patent, download this form opposition_pig_patent_eng 294.65 Kb and send it to:
No Patents on Life, Dr. Ruth Tippe, Frohschammerstr. 14, 80807 München, Germany.
Deadline: 10 April 2009.
Monsanto goes pig monopoly
These patents have to be seen in context of Monsanto's general strategy of gaining monopolies in all levels of food production, previously in the seeds sector, more recently also in animal production.
By claiming monopolies on pig production, the company tries to enter another area of food production with high economical expectations. As it is explained in patent application WO 2005/017204: "The economic impact of the industry on rural America is immense. Annual farm sales typically exceed $11 billion, while the retail value of pork sold to consumers reaches $38 billion each year." [From this perspective one could expect Monsanto filing patents on retailers selling their soybeans and pigs in the very near future.] Monsanto has also entered exclusive liscence agreements with companies that have access to the pig genome and hold patents related to it, like US company Metamorphix.
Read more about Monsanto's Pig Monopolies
Read more about Farm animals and corporate patent strategies.
WO... numbers are world patent applications, at WIPO
EP... numbers are European Patents
EP...A. numbers are European patent applications
EP....B1 numbers are European Patents as granted
EP....B2 numbers are patents as granted after the closure of a dispute
Within the juridical structure of the EPO:
Opposition is the First Instance
Appeal is the Second Instance
Enlarged Board of Appeal is the highest court within the EPO, which has the final say.