11.05.2012 - The European Parliament has adopted a non-binding resolution to exempt conventionally-bred plants or animals from patents.
Strasbourg – Although these patents are an important tool for the transfer of technology, the Parliament fears that "excessively broad patent protection can hamper innovation and progress and become detrimental to small and medium breeders by blocking access to animal and plant genetic resources". Therefore, the Parliament called on the European Patent Office to exclude products derived from conventional breeding, such as anti-carcinogenic broccoli or high-yield dairy cows, and all conventional breeding methods from patenting. It also wants the Commission and the Member States to ensure that the EU continues to exempt breeders from its patent law on plant and animal breeding. The non-legislative resolution was adopted by 354 votes to 192, with 22 abstentions.
“This is a huge success for all farmers, breeders and consumers who are concerned about the monopolisation of our food resources,” says Ruth Tippe from the coalition “No Patents On Seeds!“. Despite this, industry experts warn, that the motion might hamper the development of genetically modified crops or animals. The European Parliament therefore asked the European Commission to report “on the development and implications of patent law in the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering“ and to examine the impact of the patenting of breeding methods on the breeding and food industry.
The relevant European patent law dates from 1998. De jure it is impossible to receive patent protection for conventionally bred or genetically modified plant and animal varieties. Environmental Groups such as No Patents On Seeds claim that there is a loophole however: In the past, the European Patent Office protected gm-modified crops on the grounds that only the breeding process could not be patented, but the product regardless.
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