A broad coalition of civil society organisations wrote to the Director General of DG GROW requesting an urgent clarification on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions. The Directive 98/44/EC prohibits the patenting of “plant and animal varieties” as well as “essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals”. However, this prohibition has been eroded over the years. The European Patent Office (EPO) has granted around 180 patents concerning conventional breeding in plants and around another 1400 such patent applications are pending. There are also patents applied and granted concerning conventional breeding of farm animals.
The organisations behind the coalition of No Patents on Seeds! are concerned that this trend will hinder innovation and foster further market concentration. Such concentration is especially worrying in the EU vegetables seeds market, where already 5 companies control 95 per cent of the market. Because of the broad reach of exclusive rights, and the existing legal uncertainty with regards to what can be cultivated or, bred, these patents ultimately reduce consumer choice and lead to a decline in the diversity of agricultural crops and animals.
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