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Press Release
16/12/10

The European Patent Office and the need for democratic, transparent action on its part

After a long legal debate, the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) has given its judgment about two patents issued on two plants, which are considered as particularly relevant “legal cases”: the patent EP 1069819 on broccoli and the patent EP 1211926 on tomatoes.
 
The Enlarged Board of Appeal has tried to provide a definition for the expression “essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals”, which is used to exclude such processes from patentability within the European Patent Convention. The Court has then concluded that the mere inclusion of a technical step allowing or facilitating the crossing of whole plant genomes does not void the non-patentability bond established by the Convention for such processes.
 
The Court has therefore refused to patent the procedures which allowed for the production of the two above named varieties of plants for food purposes.
 
However, despite a first positive step (which actually sounded very predictable to all of us) – as stated by the “No Patents on Seeds” alliance, composed of the Kein Patent auf Leben, Greenpeace, Swissaid, Berne Declaration, Misereor and Utviklingsfondet associations, which have closely followed the debate in question – the Enlarged Board of Appeal (the internal body of the European Patent Office which, unfortunately, is not under the authority of any European or international court) has not yet issued an exhaustive sentence which can be deemed satisfactory to European citizens.

It has not given its opinion on the patentability of the plants and animals derived from the said procedures.
European citizens need clear signs, democratic and transparent actions and, above all, a general reconsideration of the patentability of the genetic makeup, common good of mankind. Patents on genes are proving increasingly destructive, both for farmers and for the populations of the world, who are forced to renounce their biodiversity and food sovereignty. Gene patents are also proved to worsen the problem of world hunger.

Confirming a patent on plants produced through the aforesaid procedures (which do not even imply the alibi of genetic modification) would mean going in an opposite direction to that of the safeguard of rights and principles of justice. It would mean violating the principles of democracy, which should be at the basis of EU policy.

The new Eurobarometer on biotechnology (http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf <http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_341_en.pdf> )
reveals a further striking reduction in the already low consent given by European citizens to GMOs or transgenic food. The sentence issued by Robert W. Sweet, Judge of the US Federal Court, against the patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 human genes, is a further sign of what should be the new direction to follow in patent laws.

EQUIVITA Scientific Committee, which has always worked with the “No Patents on Seeds” Coalition, hopes, in the near future, to have a revision of Directive 98/44/EC, against which the Italian Government appealed in 1999, and which would receive very little consent among the Member States of the EU today.

Equivita Scientific Committee - Italy
+ 39  063/220720 – + 39  335/8444949
equivita@equivita.it
www.equivita.it
Translated from Italian by Giuliana Mafrica – Translators against vivisection)



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