1. Greenpeace Attacks Monsanto's Biopiracy Plans
2. US giant attacked over soya patent bid

US giant attacked over soya patent bid
Susan Schwartz
South China Morning Post October 23, 2001

Greenpeace in Hong Kong has branded an American firm "colonialist" for trying to patent a gene sequence that would give it exclusive rights in more than 100 countries to a high-yield variety of soya bean.  

Agri-business giant Monsanto has filed patent requests in the countries after it discovered a natural gene sequence that produced high-yield crops of a wild soya plant that originated in China. According to Greenpeace, the patent, which has not yet been approved, would grant the company exclusive rights on the soya plants, their seeds and progeny with high-yield traits. It also would give Monsanto the exclusive right to profit from the gene sequence and block farmers and researchers from freely accessing soya with the high-yield trait.  

Greenpeace spokesman Ho Wai-chi branded it "colonialism in our natural environment". "The end implications are that the consumers will have to pay more money for soya products in Hong Kong if this is allowed to go ahead," he said. Greenpeace China genetic engineering campaigner Lo Sze-ping said the company "had tried to hijack the genetic resources of a major food crop - basing their claim on a discovery of a gene sequence found in nature".  

China grows 90 per cent of the world's wild soya crops. Mr Ho said the move set a precedent for large corporations to discover certain natural characteristics and claim ownership. Greenpeace yesterday opposed the  patent at a United Nations conference on biodiversity in Bonn, Germany, urging delegates to oppose industry-controlled monopolies on biodiversity. A spokesman for the Monsanto office in Hong Kong was not available for comment.


Greenpeace Attacks Monsanto's Biopiracy Plans

BONN/LONDON - October 22 - Greenpeace today accused the agribusiness giant Monsanto of seeking to monopolize one of the world’s main food crops, soya (wild and cultivated varieties), which originates from China. China is regarded as the center of diversity for Soya with more 6000 existing wild varieties.

At the start of the United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Biodiversity this week in Bonn, Germany, Greenpeace revealed Monsanto’s application for a patent, which would grant the company an exclusive right on soy plants, their seeds and progeny with high yield traits. Monsanto claims rights to a natural gene sequence discovered in wild plants originating from China. This sequence is directly linked to yield characteristics of the soybeans. The patent application (1) was filed simultaneously in over a hundred countries, including the US and countries in Europe. "Monsanto is a ruthless biopirate.

The company tries to hijack the genetic resources of a major food crop - basing their claim on a discovery of a gene sequence found in nature. Once this gene sequence is identified even in wild plant, Monsanto has an exclusive right to profit from it," said Sze Ping Lo, Genetic Engineering campaigner for Greenpeace China. “As 90% of the world’s wild Soya is growing in China, the patent would have large scale consequences. Chinese scientists were shocked when Greenpeace informed them of the  applications.”

The patent, blocking both farmers and researchers from freely accessing the soy with the high yield trait, has not yet been approved. The European Patent Office in Munich has raised doubts about the patent in its initial evaluation. However, both in Europe and in the USA numerous patents, regarded as cases of biopiracy by Greenpeace, have been granted.

"This case demonstrates how corporations like Monsanto are plundering nature," said Christoph Then, Greenpeace expert on patents. "Patent law is privatizing the foundations of life on this planet. As soon as genes are identified and described they can be declared 'inventions' by the companies..We are urging the delegates of the UN Conference to send a clear signal opposing industry-controlled monopolies on biodiversity.”

The UN Conference participants are aiming to agree on a system of fair access and benefit sharing arrangements regarding the use of biological diversity. Participating delegations represent more than 180 member countries of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, one of the main achievements of the UN Earth Summit of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro.

(1) Patent WO 00/18963 was registered in 1999 with the Patent Cooperation Treaty in Geneva