MEPs worry that making naturally-obtained plant traits patentable could create food market monopolies© AP Images/European Union - EP 

A ban on the patenting of products obtained by conventional breeding techniques, such as crossing, is essential to sustain innovation, food security and small businesses, says a non-legislative resolution voted by Parliament on Thursday. MEPs, surprised by the European Patent Office decision to allow patents on such products, call on the EU Commission to clarify existing EU rules as a matter of urgency and protect plant breeders’ access to biological material.

MEPs note that plant breeding is an innovative process practised by farmers and farming communities since the birth of agriculture. They argue that access to biological plant material is vital to encourage innovation and the development of new varieties to ensure global food security, tackle climate change and to prevent monopolies. Products obtained from essentially biological processes, such as plants, seeds, native traits or genes, should therefore be excluded from patentability, they insist, in a resolution approved by 413 votes to 86 , with 28 abstentions


Parliament calls on the Commission to clarify existing EU rules - particularly the EU's Biotech directive – as a matter of urgency and to forward this clarification to the European Parent Office (EPO), so as to ensure that products obtained by conventional breeding cannot be patented. MEPs also insist that the EU and its member states must safeguard access to and use of material obtained from essentially biological processes for plant breeding.


Background

 

The resolution responds to the 25 March 2015 decision by  the EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeal to allow patents on a tomato (G0002/12) and broccoli (G0002/13) obtained by conventional breeding techniques. The EPO claims that even though essentially biological processes for the production of plants, such as crossing, cannot be patented, the resulting plants or plant material, such as a fruit, may get EU-wide protection.

 

But MEPs are worried that such a narrow interpretation of current EU rules could have a negative impact on EU's competitiveness and lead to creation of monopolies on the food market. Parliament called on the EPO to exclude from patenting all products derived from conventional breeding already in its non-legislative resolution of 10 May 2012.


Non-legislative resolution

Procedure: Oral question to Commission with resolution

#plantbreeding #patents #tomato #broccoli @EPOorg

Who's involved 
Patents and plant breeders' rights