Greenpeace and Farmers join forces to protect our food from Biotech Industry buy-out

Press release - 5 April, 2005
The genetic engineering (GE) industry could come a step closer to "owning" our food, through a disastrous decision by the European Patent Office due tomorrow. Greenpeace and one of the biggest farming organisations in Argentina are warning that a final ruling on Monsanto Roundup Ready soy (1) could pave the way for all biotech companies to patents on seeds.

The ruling will run in contravention of the European PatentConvention's own regulations that prohibit patenting plant varieties(2). At a joint press conference with the Argentine Federación AgrariaArgentina in Munich Greenpeace and the farmers were calling for aglobal ban on such patents.

"Monsanto and the companies, which are part of Monsanto'sseed-emporium, have already been granted dozens of patents on seeds inEurope. The companies are trying to gain complete control ofagriculture, from seed to food - and patents are the right tool for it"- said Christoph Then, genetic engineering campaigner of GreenpeaceInternational.

Such takeover would be a threat to traditional seed practices and wouldbe a direct violation of farmers around the world. In addition to thepatent applications, Monsanto is pushing for additional royalties on GEsoy after harvest in Argentina without even having any legal basis forit. It is also feared that if the European Patent is upheld the companywill use the legislation to even charge Argentinean soy-shipmentscoming to Europe.

"Countries which allow for patents on life give up their sovereignty ontheir national resources and violate the rights of the farmers to usetheir own seeds. Farmers who are sowing Monsanto plants have to beaware that they are also growing the seeds of monopoly; this is truefor Europe and Argentina. The company is taking farmers prisoner anddenying them the chance to return to farming non-GE seeds" - saidEduardo Buzzi, the president of Federación Agraria Argentina.

Greenpeace is concerned that patents on GE seeds are just a startingpoint for companies such as Monsanto to take all kind of patentmonopolies on seeds, cultivation, harvest, food and seed production.The actual market position of Monsanto and some other seed patentgiants is already so strong that in the near future even farmers inEurope could be forced to grow GE seeds, because they simply will beoffered no more new conventional seeds.

Other contacts: Christoph Then, GE campaigner, Greenpeace International +49 171 878 0832

Notes: (1)The EP 546 090 patent was originally granted in 1996, but subsequently challenged by Greenpeace, the "No Patents on Life" organisation and one of Monsanto's competitors. It covers a large number of genetically engineered plant species that are made resistant against the Roundup Ready herbicide of Monsanto.(2)Article 53 of the European Patent Convention (EPC).