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Syngenta granted patent on conventionally bred tomato

Tomato Who invented tomatoes? (Photo: Normanack/flickr.com)

Agrochemical giant Syngenta has received a new patent on a tomato derived from classical breeding. The European Patent Office (EPO) granted a patent for a tomato with a higher content of compounds called flavonols to the Swiss company. Flavonols are known for their health benefits and are said to help prevent cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. Patent EP1515600, which was published in the August 12th issue of the European Patent Register, covers the tomato plants, seeds and fruits. The “invention” is described as “flavonol expressing domesticated tomato and method of production”. The tomato was developed by crossing wild tomatoes with domesticated varieties and is thus not genetically engineered. Although European patent law prohibits patents on plant varieties and classical breeding methods, the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the EPO ruled in March 2015 in a long-awaited decision on the precedent cases of broccoli and tomato, that plants obtained by essentially biological processes are patentable. No Patents on Seeds!, an international coalition of several hundred organisations from all over Europe, strongly disapproves of this decision and the latest tomato patent, which they consider an unacceptable interpretation of patent law. “By granting these patents, the EPO is ignoring the interests of the general public and simply serving the interests of the patent lobby. If this continues we will all become more and more dependent on a few big international corporates such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Dupont, that file more and more patents on our food plants,” said Christoph Then for No Patents on Seeds! The EPO gains its revenue by granting patents. The coalition, which is supported by organisations such as Greenpeace, GeneWatch, The Berne Declaration, Swissaid and Misereor, calls on European governments to raise the issue in the Administrative Council of the EPO, the only body that could exercise political control over the Patent Office. They hope that by voicing their protest there, governments could stop the EPO from granting further patents of this kind. No Patents on Seeds! is advocating for a revision of European Patent Law to exclude breeding material, plants and animals and food derived thereof from patentability. “Otherwise we will all see the sell-out of the resources needed for our daily food,” Then said. (ab)

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