Greenpeace reveals Biotech giant Monsanto application for global pig patent

Press release - August 2, 2005
Greenpeace researchers have uncovered patent application from the biotech giant Monsanto which, if granted, would give the company world-wide control over breeding of pigs and their off spring. Greenpeace warns that Monsanto's aggressive patent practices covering genetically modified (GM) crops and normal seeds threaten biodiversity, endanger world food security and ruin the livelihoods of farmers and calls for the patent applications to be withdrawn.

Speaking at an international conference on Biodiversity, Biopiracy and Patents (1), being held in New Delhi, Eric Gall of Greenpeace International said: "Monsanto is once again trying to control the food we grow.  This is patenting life. This is abuse of patent laws and it is an outright offence to farmers world-wide."

Filed at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva (2) the patent application stakes a claim on pig rights in more than 160 countries, including the UK, Germany, the US, Russia, Brazil, Australia, China and India. If granted, US-based Monsanto will be in a position to prevent breeders and farmers from breeding pigs with certain characteristics or methods of breeding, or force them to pay royalties. The patents cover methods of conventional breeding and also the screening for naturally occurring genetic conditions that can make pigs grow faster.

Monsanto wants to enter a growing market with an increasing consumer demand for meat products globally. The Monsanto patents pretend to speed up breeding for higher economical profit. The hitch is that these pigs and their descendants would all be patented - and royalties would have to be paid to Monsanto.

Monsanto is already infamous for its aggressive marketing of GM crops such as GM soy and GM maize, as well as for its far-reaching monopolies on all kind of seeds (3). Greenpeace wants Monsanto to drop patent applications on farm animals and seeds, and stop the abuse of patent law, bio-piracy, animal patents and seed monopolies. Greenpeace also launched a cyberaction against Monsanto today.

"If this patent gets granted, Monsanto could control the normal breeding of pigs to a large extent, without any real invention behind it. The experience farmers have with this company so far (4) let them expect a further shocking exercise of squeezing royalties and suing farmers on a global scale," warned Gall. "This patent application is so absurd we wonder what Monsanto will come up with next."

Other contacts: Eric Gall, Greenpeace European Unit GMO policy adviser, mobile +91 98 116 82601 (in India) and +32 (0)496 161 582
Christoph Then, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International, mobile +49 171 878 0832

Notes:

(1) "EU - India Dialogue cum Strategy Session on Biodiversity, Indigenous Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights" conference between the European Union and India is held in New Delhi, India on 1-2 August 2005.

(2) Patent applications WO 2005/017204 and WO 2005/015989 were filed in February 2005 at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva. There are more than 160 countries mentioned where the patent should be granted, such as in Europe, Russian Federation, Asia (India, China, Philippines) America (USA, Brazil, Mexico), Australia and New Zealand. The WIPO itself can only receive applications, but does not grant any patents; it will forward the applications to regional patent offices in the US, Europe or elsewhere. At this stage the patent are not granted yet, but they could be accepted for example under European and US Regulation. For the full document see: http://www.wipo.int/cgi-pct/guest/ifetch5?ENG+PCT-ALL.vdb+14+1147748-SCORE+256+4+20872+BASICHTML-ENG+1+1+1+25+SEP-0/HITNUM,B,,SCORE+2005015989

(3) The company has spent about 10 billions US $ over the last ten years to buy a large range of companies involved in seed and agricultural production. According to Greenpeace, such patents and monopolies lead to a decrease of biodiversity in agriculture, endanger global food security and put pressure on farmers' livelihoods worldwide.

(4) The way Monsanto tries to control its genetically manipulated seeds such as herbicide resistant soybeans by taking farmers to court has already led to worldwide controversies and protests. Recently it was made public that Monsanto even tries to get additional royalties for harvests from Argentinean soybean farmers exported to Europe by filing court cases in Denmark, claiming the cargo of shipments was their intellectual property.