Thursday, April 07, 2005

European: Patent Genetically Modified Soy Not Revoked

The European Patent Office (EPO) has decided no to revoke the patent on Roundup Ready soy of biotech company Monsanto. The genetically modified soy is widely used, though the European Union has for long been hesitant to approve Roundup Ready corn for consumption. The safety of consumption aside, the patenting of the soy raises interesting control issues.

Farmers using the genetically modified (Roundup Ready) soy may have lower production costs, but they also enter into a relation of possible restrictive licensing with the company providing the soy (i.c. Monsanto). Farmers will have to buy there seeds from the company or authorized dealers, may not resell them to others and possibly not reuse them. Eventually genetically modified and patented soy may flood the market at the cost of (more expensive) conventional soy, creating a lock-in for the farmers. The basis of food production may become covered by the control of patents.

The planting of Monsanto's soy was approved last year in Argentinia. At a press conference, organised by Greenpeace, the president of the FederaciĆ³n Agraria Argentina said:
"Countries which allow for patents on life give up their sovereignty on their national resources and violate the rights of the farmers to use their own seeds. Farmers who are sowing Monsanto plants have to be aware that they are also growing the seeds of monopoly; this is true for Europe and Argentina. The company is taking farmers prisoner and denying them the chance to return to farming non-GE seeds."
Greenpeace notes that Monsanto's patent contravenes with article 53(b) European Patent Convention:
European patents shall not be granted in respect of:

(b)
plant or animal varieties or essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals; this provision does not apply to microbiological processes or the products thereof.
My knowledge on these patenting issues is insufficient for extensive commentary. I'll be looking forward to some, from either side in the weeks to come. I'd like to know why I should sink my teeth in a genetically modified sandwich.
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Greenpeace press release at Common Dreams (obviously biased)
Related: US IP Order Targets Iraqi Seed Savers
Australian Seed Piracy

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