Government supports SP: Plant characteristics no longer prey to patent rights

18 May 2011

Government supports SP: Plant characteristics no longer prey to patent rights

Henk Bleker, Secretary of State for Agriculture and Innovation, today announced an important change of course regarding the exemption of plant characteristics from patents. The move means that horticulturalists and market gardeners will be given the chance to cultivate and improve plants that have been subject to such patents. ’These are promising moves towards turning the tide on the growing power that multinationals have over our food,’ SP Member of Parliament Henk van Gerven. ‘We have been arguing for this for a long time.’

Central to the discussion is the question of ownership of the genetic characteristics of plants. Multinationals are keen to patent such properties. Exemption means enabling the farmer to save harvested seed and use it to grow crops for sale. Amongst market gardeners and other cultivators, it creates a propagator of innovation. It is also tremendously advantageous from the point of view of biodiversity and of farmers in developing countries.

Secretary of State Bleker has promised to make efforts to bring about a complete exemption covering the whole of the EU, and to link up with other member states arguing for the same. Van Gerven describes himself as ‘delighted’ by the change of course. “Christian Democrat Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen generally takes up the cudgels for the multinationals, but Bleker seems to be taking the side of gardeners, farmers and the general public. We must, however, be on our guard in case the wind changes direction again. The multinationals’ lobby is powerful and on the patenting of plant characteristics rests a business worth billions. Given the different standpoints of some parties in the past, not everyone is behind this to the same extent.'

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