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PATENTS : NEW SEED PATENT CONTESTED.

"Free the pepper!" was the war cry of a European coalition formed to fight the authorisation by the European Patent Office (EPO) last May of a patent for a variety of whitefly-resistant Jamaican pepper. Thirty-four organisations therefore joined forces, on 3 February, to call for the patent to be annulled.

The patent for the Jamaican pepper was granted to Syngenta, a Swiss multinational, which controls 9% of the global seed market. The coalition considers that the EPO should not have awarded exclusive rights to something that does not constitute an invention, since this variety already exists in nature and is derived from essentially organic processes "which are not patentable under Article 53b of the convention on the European patent," emphasises a declaration by Berne, which coordinated the coalition. This variety of Jamaican pepper is, at best, a discovery, Berne says.

Moreover, others who oppose the patent have highlighted that it poses an ethical problem: indigenous vegetable varieties, such as this pepper, belong to the universal heritage, and Jamaica will not benefit from the marketing of Syngenta peppers. The patentability of such seeds, by forbidding their use by gardeners and farmers in the 38 member countries of the convention establishing the EPO, reduces biodiversity and threatens food security, they say. The three largest seed companies - Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta - control more than 50% of the international seed market and hold numerous patents for seeds.

"The patent only concerns genetics which are particular to our invention," Syngenta has responded. "The original biomaterials remain available for use by other growers."

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Publication:Europe Environment
Date:Mar 21, 2014
Words:257
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