Copa Cogeca warns for negative effects patenting plant traits

Copa and Cogeca warned EU Farm Ministers against patenting plant traits in the EU agriculture sector at a high-level meeting, saying it would cause less competition and higher costs in the seed market.

In a meeting with the Luxembourg Presidency, Copa Vice-President Henri Brichart said “Patenting plant traits is a big concern for farmers, consumers and the food chain as a whole. Patenting plants characteristics when they result from conventional breeding will not help farmers to get better crop varieties adapted to local conditions or enable us to meet growing world demand set to increase by 60% by 2050 by using resources more efficiently. Instead, it will cause less competition, less innovation and less varieties and at the same time additional costs. Copa and Cogeca are very concerned by the big number of patents granted to plants.”

The move came as the issue was being debated by EU Farm Ministers over lunch. Ministers discussed the impact of the recent decision of the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) which recognise two patents: one from a British company for broccoli that contains a bitter anti-carcinogenic substance, and another from an Israeli company for 'wrinkly' tomatoes that have a reduced water content. But Copa-Cogeca believes that the specific characteristics of these broccoli and tomato plants were not invented or artificially manufactured. They were already in the wild parent plants and are the result of crossing and selection practices, which are essentially biological processes. Chairman of Copa-Cogeca Working Party on Seeds Thor Kofoed said “Copa and Cogeca are extremely concerned that this decision extends the scope of the patent to all broccoli and tomato plants that have these characteristics. This protection will mean that all companies that produce varieties with the same features will have to obtain a license from the patent holder.. This poses a risk for both farmers, consumers and the food chain. It could jeopardise progress in breeding, and decrease innovation and biodiversity, thus resulting in increasing consolidation in the seed industry. Given the high legal costs associated with patenting, as well as the high transaction costs of licensing, only a limited number of large companies will manage to survive. Also the patent holder can extend his right in the whole food chain.”

Copa and Cogeca consequently favour the EU plant variety system which helps farmers to have new varieties and products suited to local conditions, which is vital when farmers face many challenges like tackling sustainable production, less environmental emissions, better use of natural resources, climate change, food quality, and so on.

For more information:
Copa - Cogeca
European Farmers European Agri-Cooperatives
61, Rue de Trèves
B - 1040 Bruxelles
EU Transparency Register Number
Copa 44856881231-49
Cogeca 09586631237-74

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