On Monday (May 6 2013) a new law was put before the European Commission, which creates new powers to classify and regulate all plant life anywhere in Europe.The key last minute concessions that were made – and this really was only due to public pressure, I know that alot of Swedish gardeners had been made aware of the proposal and had written to Cecilia Malmström
The changes from between the draft and final proposal are somewhat better and are as follows:
- Home gardeners are now permitted to save and swap unapproved seed without breaking the law.
- Individuals & small organisations can grow and supply/sell unapproved vegetable seed – but only if they have less than 10 employees.
- Seedbanks can grow unapproved seed without breaking the law.
- There might be easier (in an unspecified way) rules for large producers of seeds suitable for organic agriculture etc, in some (unspecified) future legislation – maybe.
In other news the European Patent Office granted a patent on pepper plants, such as chili, derived from conventional breeding (EP2140023). The patent covers the plants, fruits and seeds and even claims the growing and harvesting of the plants as an invention. The patent was granted despite the fact that the European Parliament and the German Parliament have asked the EPO to stop these patents, and over 2 million people have signed an online petition against patents on conventionally-bred seeds. There are two precedent cases pending at the EPO waiting for a final decision for over five years. No Patents on Seeds! is urging the Member States of the EPO to become actively involved in order to stop the EPO from granting further patents on plants and animals.
“This patent again shows that the EPO is out of control. They are ignoring the vote of European Parliament. They simply continue to grant more and more patents on conventional breeding”, says Christoph Then of No Patents on Seeds!. “A political decision could stop these patents within a few months. We urge our governments to become actively involved now.”
There are huge differences between the text of the European Patent Convention (EPC), which is the legal basis of the EPO, and its current interpretation. While for example the EPC prohibits patents on plant and animal varieties, the EPO routinely grants patents that extend to varieties. The Administrative Council, which is the assembly of representatives, could at any time change the interpretation of the current law and thereby enforce the existing prohibitions. The same changes could be made in national legislation. This could be a first decisive step, which would have the backing of a vote taken by the European Parliament in May 2012. Further efforts such as a change in legislation are needed to prohibit patents on life in general.
For more information on both the patent changes and the seed proposal