Monsanto may have just lost a very significant battle in the ongoing GMO seed debate.
The European Patent Office (EPO) revoked the biotech’s patent on a specific type of all-natural, non-GMO tomato. The specific tomato breed in question is naturally resistant to botrytis, a fungal disease.
An international coalition of concerned growers had urged the European body to make the move.
“The tomato is not genetically modified, but Monsanto manipulated documents to make the plant look ‘invented’ by the biotech company,” according to a Natural Society report. These non-GMO tomatoes, like many healthy plants, are bred to have a natural resistance to specific pests, much like the immune system of the human body can fend off colds. But the resistance of the tomatoes born from the seeds Monsanto was attempting to patent is not unique and was not aided by the company.
Sustainable Pulse reported that Monsanto “produced a cleverly worded patent” in order to “create the impression that genetic engineering” was needed to produce the tomatoes, when it in fact is not.
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“Revoking this patent is an important success,” said Christoph Then, a coordinator of No Patents on Seeds. “It was more or less based on a combination of fraud, abuse of patent law and biopiracy. The patent could have been used to monopolize important genetic resources. Now breeders, growers and consumers have a chance of benefiting from a greater diversity of tomatoes improved by further breeding. The intended resistance is based on complex genetic conditions, which are not known in detail. So genetic engineering is clearly not an option in this case.”
Altogether, the EPO has granted around 2,400 patents on GMO plants, many of them owned by Monsanto.
In a move which many feel defied common sense, Monsanto originally was granted a seed patent on the tomato. Growers became very concerned that the impact of the European patent, EP1812575, would have create a seed monopoly. Monsanto already controls more than 25 percent of the world seed supply.
The victory for Monsanto’s opponents is significant, particularly because the European Patent Office has already granted more than 100 patents on conventional bred seeds. The patents were issued even though “essentially biological processes for the production of plants and animals” and “plant varieties” are excluded from patentability, Sustainable Plus reported.
“The revoking of this patent is important because it tells Monsanto and other biotech companies that the world will not stand down to its abuse of patent laws. It will also allow plant breeders and home gardeners access to a larger variety of naturally resistant plants,” according to the same Natural Society report.
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