Swiss seed company Syngenta obtains permission to patent nature!


Brussels, 14 December 2018 –  The Technical Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) last week annulled the ban on patenting traits of plants and animals selected from natural biodiversity. This decision follows a procedure initiated by Syngenta -recently acquired by the chemical company ChemChina- to have a patent on a pepper obtained by crossing and selecting plants found in nature.


The multinational seed company has thus convinced a handful of judges – whose salaries solely depend on the sums paid by the companies to which they grant patents – to disregard the decision to ban such patents taken a year and a half earlier, on 29 June 2017, by the EPO’s Administrative Council following multiple mobilisations by peasant organisations and European civil society, several decisions of the European Parliament and a formal request from the Council of the European Union.


Beyond Syngenta’s pepper, this legalization of biopiracy is only the latest manifestation of the biotechnology industry’s plan to privatize nature. Fortunately, the EPO still prohibits the patenting of simple crossbreeding and the selection of natural living organisms.


To overcome this obstacle, biotech companies are claiming patents on products resulting from new genetic manipulation techniques performed in vitro, which they refer to as “genome editing”, while insisting that the characteristics or “genetic information” resulting from these manipulations can also be obtained by traditional breeding methods. They claim, without providing any proof, to do “the same as nature, just faster”. The scope of their patents thus extends to all plants and animals selected by farmers or small seed companies that naturally contain the same “genetic information”.


The June 2017 ban on patents on plants and animals derived exclusively from “essentially biological processes” of selection made it possible to oppose this sleight of hand. Seed multinationals had announced that they would have this ban lifted, the EPO judges have carried out their orders.


Such a violation of the democratic functioning of the European institutions is unacceptable. The European Coordination Via Campesina calls on the European Union and its Member States to immediately enforce their June 2017 decision and to definitively ban all patents on living organisms.


Contacts :

  • Antonio Onorati – ECVC Coordination Committee : +39 3408 2194 56
  • Guy Kastler – ECVC Seeds Group : + 33 603 94 5721