------ Patents on Rice: the Genetic Engineering Hypocrisy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 26, 2005
BASEL SWITZERLAND -- April 26 -- At their AGM today the genetic engineering (GE) corporation Syngenta will celebrate with its shareholders how much money they made in the last year. At the same time Greenpeace research(1) reveals how they plan to further profit from farmers all around the world.
Sygenta has spent the last five years trying to develop a magic rice seed that they claim will cure blindness and eradicate malnutrition across the world. While claiming that the development of Golden Rice was not a commercial, but humanitarian venture(2), they had already applied to patent it in over 100 countries, (3) It would apply even in developing countries although it had previously said the seed would be provided free.
"Anyone applying for patents wants to make money from them," says Greenpeace's patent expert, Christoph Then. "Syngenta seems to have problems with the truth in general. The company also kept secret the recent scandal involving unauthorised varieties of genetically manipulated corn. The patent claims now discovered show the true face of a company that wants to ensure it has monopolistic rights over plant-breeding, agriculture and food production, without concern for the dangers to people and the environment."
At least another five patents have been filed for important gene sequences in normal rice plants. Greenpeace is calling on Syngenta to withdraw its patent applications. In addition to which, patenting seeds and forms of life must be banned:
"Syngenta will undoubtedly claim they are happy to allow the free use of the patent by researchers," said Then. "But patents last for 20 years and the company can start charging anytime."
The agro-industry has been arguing for years that genetically manipulated rice would help combat deficiency diseases. However, agrarian scientists warn that patents impede research and plant breeding and jeopardise the existence of farmers who are no longer allowed to use their own harvest for re-seeding.
The patent applications filed for the rice genome are unprecedented in plant cultivation. They cover over 1,000 genetic sequences which also affect normal plant breeding. Syngenta's patent claims are aimed at the most important gene sequences for plant growth, resistance to disease and nutritional content. All genes with a similar structure and function in other varieties of plant are even included in the claims.
Notes to Editor
(2) Nature Biotechnology, 23, 2005
(3) (WO 04/085656) Countries included in the patent application are India, China, the Philippines and 16 African nations
Bruno Heinzer, Greenpeace Switzerland: +41 (0) 79400 8831
Christoph Then, Greenpeace Germany: +49 (0)171 8780 832
Simone Miller, Greenpeace Germany press officer, tel. +49 (0)40 30618 343
"While claiming that the development of Golden Rice was not a commercial, but humanitarian venture, [Syngenta] had already applied to patent it in over 100 countries. It would apply even in developing countries although it had previously said the seed would be provided free."