Wednesday, November 2, 2011
A noisy silence - EPO’s reply to civil society’s accusations
Press Release (Translated from Italian by Emilia Mancini)
November 02, 2011
Last week, in spite of uninterrupted rain, over 300 million protesters gathered in Munich to voice their refusal of EPO’s patent policy. The large crowd included a wide range of environment activists, farmers and development organizations from several European countries.
Just outside the main entrance to the majestic building owned by EPO (European Patent Office), the protesters reported the irregularities found in the latest patents granted on living matter (which represents the most precious common good). Such patents even exceed the rather loose limitations imposed by European laws. In fact, not only do they concern plants and animals reproduced through biotechnological processes, but also those reproduced through ‘essentially biological methods’, which do not need to be patented according to the European Patent Convention or to the Directive 98/44 named ‘Directive for the protection of biotechnological inventions’.
Following an appeal filed against the patent on broccoli (EP1069819), it was decided that such a plant would represent a ‘judicial case’ for EPO and that, based on the decision of the High Court of Appeal (the EPO’s inner court), it should be decided whether patents should also be granted on plants reproduced through conventional methods. The Court’s decision was long awaited and arrived three years later. In December 2010, EPO announced that the patent on broccoli’s reproduction procedure was revoked, whereas the patent for the plant itself was left on a standby status.
The final sentence was fixed for 26th October, 2011. However, it was surprisingly cancelled a few days before the above date and the appeal for the plant patent was cancelled as well (it should be highlighted that it had been filed by two biotech companies).
Therefore, EPO, even though in a not too clear way, recognized that patents can be granted on organisms reproduced through essentially biological methods, or traditional ones. After all, many patents had already been granted before the date in question. This means that control on living matter, bit by bit, monopoly after monopoly, may very easily end up in the hands of 4 or 5 multinational companies, together with food production for the whole world. It ought to be pointed out that, very often, a patent also concerns the entire food chain, as it happens with Australian barley, for instance. In fact, its patent, which is going to be granted shortly, will include bread, pasta and beer!
‘It’s the last straw. It is not possible to sit and wait for other events’. That’s basically the content of the various speeches given during the demonstration, which was also attended by the Italian EQUIVITA Scientific Commission - represented by its coordinator, Mrs Fabrizia Pratesi. On that occasion, she stated: “After the patent granted on plants reproduced through conventional methods, such as the broccoli, melon and sunflower ones, or after the forthcoming patent on cucumber, which is going to be granted to Bayer, and after many other patents that have been granted on plants reproduced through conventional methods, we can no longer nurture any illusions about the next sentence due to be issued on 8th November, which will decide upon the patent on a tomato that Israel has already obtained (EP1211926)”.
The participants’ general appeal was voiced as follows: “We need to act together. We should encourage our governments and our Agriculture Ministries to file their objections against the latest patents. If there are no laws to protect us against EPO (which, unfortunately, is untouchable as it’s not part of the EU), then the law should urgently be amended\u2026 to prevent EPO from starting to issue patents even on air and sunlight in a short while!”