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Demand for international conference against patents on seeds grows

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Among other plants, the breeding of tomatoes is threatened by seed patents. © Pixabay / Kathas-Fotos

The petition launched in November 2021 calling for the convening of an international patent conference is receiving more and more support. The petitioners' aim is to stop patents on conventionally bred plants and animals. Among others, malting barley, bush melons, lettuce and tomatoes are affected by such patents. Many of the patents also extend to food, including beer.

Now Die Freien Brauer (English “The Free Brewers”), a community that also includes breweries in Germany, Austria and Luxembourg, has also launched a campaign in support of the petition. The European umbrella organisation of agricultural organisations, COPA / COGECA, had already declared its support for the petition.

Already about 50 organisations from 14 countries support the petition, which can also be signed by individuals. The petition demands that the ministers of the contracting states of the European Patent Office (EPO) meet within one year for a conference and take effective measures against patents on the conventional breeding of plants and animals. Patents on processes based on cross-breeding, selection or random mutations must be excluded, as well as the extension of claims of genetic engineering patents to conventionally bred plants and animals.

"We want to preserve the independence of breeders, gardeners and farmers who breed, cultivate or reproduce conventional plants and animals. Access to biodiversity, which is needed for further breeding, must not be controlled, hindered or blocked by patents," says Johanna Eckhardt from the organisation "No Patents on Seeds", which started the petition.

The problem has become more and more acute in recent years: the processes of 'new genetic engineering' and tools such as CRISPR/Cas also make it possible to imitate the results of conventional breeding. Many companies deliberately blur the line between genetic engineering and conventional breeding in their patent applications. If the patents are granted, they can also cover plants (or animals) from conventional breeding and with random mutations.

This is how large corporations gain more and more control over conventional breeding. "If patents are not clearly limited to genetic engineering methods that are actually used, this can have serious consequences for breeding, agriculture and consumers. They will become more and more dependent on large corporations that control access to the biological resources needed for further breeding," says Christoph Then of "No Patents on Seeds".


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