Crop Diversity is Not Private Property
Greenpeace Attacks Monsanto's Biopiracy Plans
Here is a news update from Greenpeace, noting an attempt to privatize humanity's common heritage.
Greenpeace accused the agribusiness giant Monsanto of seeking to monopolize one of the world's main food crops, soya (wild and cultivated varieties), which originates from China. China is regarded as the center of diversity for Soya with more than 6,000 existing wild varieties.
At the start of the United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Biodiversity in Bonn, Germany, Greenpeace revealed Monsanto's application for a patent, which would grant the company an exclusive right on soy plants, their seeds and progeny with high yield traits. Monsanto claims rights to a natural gene sequence discovered in wild plants originating from China. This sequence is directly linked to yield characteristics of the soybeans.
The patent application was filed simultaneously in over a hundred countries, including the US and countries in Europe. "Monsanto is a ruthless biopirate. The company tries to hijack the genetic resources of a major food crop -- basing their claim on a discovery of a gene sequence found in nature. Once this gene sequence is identified even in wild plants, Monsanto seeks an exclusive right to profit from it," said Sze Ping Lo, Genetic Engineering campaigner for Greenpeace China. "As 90% of the world's wild Soya is growing in China, the patent would have large scale consequences. Chinese scientists were shocked when Greenpeace (not Monsanto) informed them of the applications."
The patent, blocking both farmers and researchers from freely accessing the soy with the high yield trait, has not yet been approved. The European Patent Office in Munich has raised doubts about the patent in its initial evaluation. However, both in Europe and in the USA numerous similar patents, regarded as cases of biopiracy by Greenpeace, have been granted.
"This case demonstrates how corporations like Monsanto are plundering nature," said Christoph Then, Greenpeace expert on patents. "Patent law is privatizing the foundations of life on this planet. As soon as genes are identified and described they can be declared 'inventions' by the companies. We are urging the delegates of the UN Conference to send a clear signal opposing industry-controlled monopolies on biodiversity."
The UN Conference participants are aiming to agree on a system of fair access and benefit sharing arrangements regarding the use of biological diversity. Participating delegations represent more than 180 member countries of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
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