Munich, 20. October 2011.
Surprisingly, the European Patent Office (EPO) has just canceled a public hearing on the controversial patent on a broccoli scheduled for 26 October. A broad range of organisations had been preparing a demonstration against patents for plants and animals on that day. The broccoli protected by the patent EP1069819 was derived by conventional breeding methods. The rights to the patents are being held by US company Monsanto. The company Syngenta which had appealed against the patent, has now surprisingly proposed the cancellation of the planned hearing. The EPO is following this request from industry. This means that the patent for the broccoli, which is derived by traditional breeding methods, will now be upheld with only minor modifications.
"The patent office as well as industry shy away from any public spotlight. They wanted to avoid the demonstration, to which even the German minister for agriculture had been invited to speak. There is no other explanation as to why the long scheduled hearing has now so suddenly been canceled. However, public protest will continue, and we will not stop mobilisation for the demonstration", says Ruth Tippe of "No Patents on Life!", which had been involved in the preparation of the demonstration, together with Farmers, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Misereor and others.
As the broccoli in question has already reached supermarket shelves in the UK, some effects of patented vegetables can now be studied. The broccoli was derived by conventional breeding methods and is supposed to contain a higher level of healthy components. The rights to the patents are being held by US company Monsanto. As of October 2011, the company exclusively markets the broccoli under the label "naturally better" and at significantly higher prices than other broccoli varieties through the retail chain Marks & Spencer. Without the assigned patent other breeders could further improve this broccoli and consumers would have a much wider choice between several producers. Now the patent will stifle further breeding developments.
"In times when nearly a billion people are starving, it is simply immoral to artificially increase prices of foods through patent monopolies. Effectively, companies such as Monsanto are abusing patent laws to turn food resources into financial ventures. Should healthy food only be available for rich people?” asks Kerstin Lanje from Misereor.
For contacts please call:
Ruth Tippe, No Patents on Seeds! - Tel: +49 (0)172-8963858
Kerstin Lanje, Misereor - Tel: +49 (0) 1522959 73 50
Christoph Then, No Patents on Seeds - Tel: +49 (0) 15154638040
Note to the editors:
The demonstration is being planned in front of the EPO in Munich, Germany, on 26 October, at 11 a.m. CET. On November 8th, the EPO will hold another hearing and decide on a patent on tomatoes.