Greenpeace Slams Latest EPO-granted Patent on Plants and Land

Feature story - 5 February, 2002
When fields, seeds and harvests no longer belong to farmers, something has gone seriously wrong with patent law.

A Bangladeshi farmer using organic methods plants young rice into soil that has been recently flooded.


The European Patent Office (EPO) has for the first time granted a patent which covers not only plants but even agricultural land. Greenpeace research reveals that the EPO granted patent EP 784 421 to the company Treetech Management on 23 January.

This patent covers the growing of Genetically Engineered (GE) seeds together with normal plants.

But the patent also covers "normal" fruit trees, as well as any agricultural crop plants, cultivated for the purpose of combating pests when planted alongside "insect-resistant" GE plants. Under the rules currently applied by the European Patent Office, this patent even covers the harvest of the normal plants that are supposed to be planted alongside the GE crop.

The controversial EU Biotech Patents Directive (1) used as a foundation by the EPO expressly emphasises that products resulting from patent-protected processes are also subject to the exclusive right of the owner of the patent.

The patent not only covers the plants but even the agricultural land on which they grow. This is the first time that patent claims have been extended to agricultural land.

Greenpeace believes the EPO is abusing patent law for the benefit of the few multinational giants that control the genetic engineering industry.

Over 150 patents on human and animal genes and over 50 patents on seeds have been granted by the EPO since it started applying the EU Patents Directive in 1999.

Greenpeace opposes the wording of the EU Patents Directive and calls for a re-negotiation of the Directive at the EU level.

Greenpeace opposes patents on life. The sell-out of biological diversity and intellectual property rights that restrict access to plant genetic resources must stop.

(1) EU Directive 98/44 on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions, which allows patents on life.