Last November, the European Patent Office (EPO) reaffirmed a patent on beer and barley derived from traditional breeding granted to the breweries Carlsberg and Heineken. The European coalition No patents on seeds! filed an appeal against this decision. Support came as well from the brewery sector: The Independent Private Breweries of Austria and the Free brewers of Germany (small and medium scale breweries) joined in the protest against patents that infringe the prohibition of patents on conventional breeding, threaten the access to seeds for breeders, pose a risk to agro-biodiversity and limit the consumers’ choice.

©Falk Heller

For years now, big international companies, most of them also active in the agrochemical-sector (like BASF, Bayer, Corteva, Syngenta), have been filing patens on special traits of plants (like e.g. disease resistance, special growth, heat resistance, germination capacity at a higher temperature, etc.). Legal loopholes make it possible that patents are not only being granted on genome editing, but as well on plants derived from traditional breeding techniques, even though these are supposed to be excluded from patentability.

Yet, the awareness for this problem is rising – and so are the voices that are calling on the EPO and the ministries of its 39 member states to take action against the threat of patents on plants for the freedom to operate of breeders and farmers. Last December, the coalition No patents on seeds! handed over a petition against patent on seeds supported by over 70 organizations from 18 countries and signed by more than 250.000 citizens across Europe to the EPO in Munich.

This is an important sign to the political decision-makers. It is high time for national ministries, the European Parliament and the EPO to provide legal solutions in favor of the public, agro-biodiversity and food security. To be able to react to current agricultural challenges especially in view of the present climate crisis, it is of utmost importance to guarantee the free access to genetic resources for traditional breeders and farmers, promote the production of a big diversity of local varieties and support small and medium scale producers. Breeders, farmers and all further actors in the food production sector have to be independent of the good will of patent holders and big corporations to protect food sovereignty in Europe and worldwide.

No a las patentes sobre semillas

Author: Johanna Eckhardt, Project Coordination, No Patents on Seeds!

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