Be it as grilled vegetables in traditional Spanish dishes like “escalivada” or “pimientos de padrón”, or as a spice added to paella– we wouldn’t want to miss it in our kitchen: the pepper, hot or sweet. Pepper is a delicious and healthy plant, existing in thousands of different wild and cultivated varieties. A vast pool of genetic heterogeneity is the precondition for its preservation and cultivation. However, the continuous grant of patents on plants endangers the development and preservation of such diversity. Patents privatize the right to use certain genetic resources as the patent-holder alone can allow or deny access to it and demand licence-fees.

Foto cedida por No Patents on Seeds

The recent rejection of an appeal to a patent (EP2140023) held by Syngenta since 2013 on a naturally occurring resistance to the white fly of pepper plants originally found in a wild pepper from Jamaica, shows once again how necessary it is to stop the European Patent Office (EPO) and big seed companies to privatise our food crops. After years of legal uncertainty, plant breeding will continue to be hampered by this patent which never should have been granted in the first place.

Although patents on conventional breeding are prohibited in Europe, alone in the month of December 2022 four new patents on crops have been granted on seedless cantaloupes, on tomatoes growing without pollination, on beer with a longer sale-by date, and on dandelions for rubber production. These plant-patents are validated or will be validated soon in the 39 member states of the EPO, including in Spain.

Unhindered access to genetic resources, in particular for small and medium scale breeders, is a prerequisite to facilitate breeding needed to face locally differing challenges of climate change, pests and diseases. The effects of patents on food crops are wide-ranging: Not only is the consumer’s right to choose among a wide variety of nutritious and regional food put at risk, but as well agro-biodiversity and food security. Patents increase uniformity and monopolization, instead of offering solutions for the current ecological challenges we face. Instead of fostering dependence on a handful of big corporations, the legal framework has to encourage a resilient and ecological food system that empowers all participants along the food production chain. The politicians of the 39 member states of the EPO have to take action now!

No a las patentes sobre semillas Author: Johanna Eckhardt, No Patents on Seeds! project coordinator.

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