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Patents on melon, ham and broccoli? Change of paradigm in patent law: From protection of inventions to control of genetic resources

Christoph Then and Ruth Tippe

elni Review 2011, Issue 2,  pp. 53-57. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2011.008

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of patent applications on conventionally bred plants and animals. These patents no longer simply focus on a particular segment of farm and food production, such as the cultivation of genetically engineered seeds, but more on the resources of daily living in general. According to the authors’ research, there has been an ongoing steady increase in the number of such patent applications in this area. Patents are being filed on seeds and breeding material, plants and animals, processes for breeding and food derived thereof, such as oil, flour, tomatoes, melons, milk and eggs. While the technical innovation in most cases is only minor, the scope of the patents is extremely broad, covering the whole chain of food production, from farm to fork. Several such patents have already been granted. Modern patent law is in danger of being abused and losing control of resources and products needed for global food production. The authors of this report believe that patents on plants and animals as well as breeding materials should be excluded by law, and open source systems in plant and animal breeding should be promoted to support innovation in plant breeding, enhance biological diversity in agriculture and secure world food production.

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