German farmers protest against pig patent

16-04-2009 | |

German farmers and environmentalists have together held a protest at the European Patent Office to block a genetic patent application from getting the green light. The patent would protect the breeding of pigs that possess a naturally occurring gene linked to rapid growth.

The 400 strong group of protestors came together in Munich appealing against a patent granted to a US company, arguing that there should be “no patents on life”. They filed an appeal seeking to overturn a 2005 patent application (Patent EP 1651777) filed by US biotech giant Monsanto, and now owned by Newsham Choice Genetics.

Protect pig breeding
The patent aims to protect a pig breeding process based on genetic analysis. But critics warn that the patent could be extended to cover the animals’ genes themselves, and farmers fear that they could one day be forced to pay royalties for their traditional livestock.

The German states of Bavaria and Hesse also oppose the patent application and have already signaled their intention to introduce a general ban on all patents covering animals and plants.

Legal loopholes
“Corporations are always trying to bypass the regulations to achieve access to animals and plants. For this reason all legal loopholes should be closed at the EU level so large companies do not dictate what is bred and what lands up on consumers’ plates,” said©Gerd Sonnleitner, the head of the German Farming Association, calling the patent a “threat to free breeding.”

The farmers’ association president also called for more research into so-called green biotechnologies to investigate the risks and opportunities involved.