The No Patents on Seeds is a coalition, which was founded by the initiative of Berne Declaration, Greenpeace, Misereor, No Patents on Life, Swissaid and the Norwegian Development Fund. The coalition is designed to enhance the correct interpretation of patent law. More than 300 non-governmental and farming organisations across the world support this union. It has collected millions of signatures against the patenting of plants and animals. Currently, the main coalition’s objective is to convince the European Union’s institutions to prepare clear legal provisions which would exclude from patentability processes for breeding, genetic material, plants and animals and food derived thereof.
This coalition and the movement originated after the European Patent Office has recognized that tomato or broccoli are inventions and issued patents for these inventions. The so-called ‘broccoli patent’, which is owned by Monsanto, includes not only the seeds of broccoli, but also the cut broccoli heads and lots of field-grown broccoli. In other words, the broccoli and their natural way of cultivation were patented. Company Syngenta has initiated an opposition against the patent, which states that the vegetables are derived on the basis of fundamental biological processes and therefore these processes are not patentable. Meanwhile, the patent critics argue that such issuing of patents is a direct signal to authorize the monopolisation of food.
Currently, the Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office, on the basis of two separate European patent cases: G1/08 – tomato patent and G2/07 – broccoli patent, is examining whether such inventions can be patented. According to the Article 53(b) of the European Patent Convention European patents are not to be granted for plant and animal breeding and reproductive fundamental biological processes, which consist only from natural phenomena, i.e. breeding and selection. However, it is not clearly defined whether an invention in which any other technical feature is introduced to the previously mentioned biological process becomes patentble.
The European Patent Office is required to take a substantive decision, which is very important both for filing new applications related to plant and animal breeding and selection, and for protecting the public from food monopolization.
However, whilst the decision is pending, the European Patent Office has issued a patent for pepper, in which, like in broccoli patent, peppers that are obtained by well-known methods of cultivation are described. The most interesting fact is that this patent was granted to company Syngenta, which has submitted an objection against the broccoli patent.