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Aigner speaks out against biological patents

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Aigner speaks out against biological patents
Photo: DPA
08:16 CEST+02:00
German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner has intervened with the European Patent Office (EPA), suggesting limits to protection for produce and livestock as the organisation begins reviewing a broccoli case that could have broad implications.

The minister has major doubts over whether the broccoli patent in question is truly an innovation for hybridisation, she told daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung.

“I have also told the president of the EPA of my concerns,” she said.

The hearing is set to take place in Munich on Monday and Tuesday, and regards a dispute over a patent granted to Plant Biosciences Ltd. in 2002 for a method of selectively increasing the level of a potentially anti-carcinogenic substance in broccoli.

In 2003 a Swiss company filed opposition to the patent, saying it was an “essentially biological process” and therefore not patentable, according to the EPA.

As a result of this case, along with another similar appeal, the EPA decided it could not produce a decision before settling exactly how to define "essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals," which will be addressed at the hearing this week.

Aigner told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that while patents are important for the protection of intellectual property, she hoped the EPA would limit the range of patent protection for agricultural products. She added that there was a clear difference between discoveries and inventions.

Because plants and animals are living organisms, they should be handled by the EPA with special care, she said.

“We can't treat new cases for plants and animals like other technical cases,” she told the paper. “Creation belongs to all humanity.”

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