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Concern over patents for vegetable varieties

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Copa and Cogeca have issued a warning over the consequences for plant breeders and others about using patents in the EU agriculture sector.

The comments were made at a seminar in Brussels on 24 June on the interface between patents and plant variety rights. The unions say granting patents will result in fewer products and varieties and additional costs.

Thor Kofoed, Chairman of Copa-Cogeca Working Party on Seeds, said “A patent system in the EU agriculture sector will not help farmers to get a better crop variety adapted to local conditions. Instead, it will lead to less products and less varieties and additional costs. Copa and Cogeca are very concerned by the increasing number of patents granted to plants.”

He pointed to the recent decision of the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) which recognises two patents: one from a British company for broccoli that contains a bitter anti-carcinogenic substance, and another from an Israeli company for ‘wrinkly’ tomatoes which have reduced water content.

Copa-Cogeca maintain that the specific characteristics of these broccoli and tomato plants were not invented or artificially manufactured, but were present in the wild parent plants and are the result of crossing and selection practices, which are essentially biological processes. ‘This protection will mean that all companies that produce varieties with the same features will have to obtain a licence from the patent holder. It could jeopardise progress in breeding, and decrease innovation and biodiversity, thus resulting in increasing consolidation in the seed industry,’ the unions added.

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