GENET archive


4 Patents: Greenpeace: Chimera Patented [Virus checked]


Brussels/Munich, 19th November, 2000 

ű Greenpeace today called on
member states of the European Patent Convention (EPC) to exercise their
moral and legal responsibility to stop the scandalous practice of granting
patents on life (human, animal and plant) through its administrative
bureau, the European Patent Office (EPO).

Demonstrating the fact that patenting life has become 

Šbusiness as

Ă in Europe, Greenpeace exposed an unknown but valid European
patent (380646), which covers embryos containing cells  from humans
and animals. This patent was granted by the European Patent Office
(EPO) to an Australian company, Amrad, in 1999.

Patent 380646 covers methods to isolate and propagate cells from human
and animal embryos 

ű stating explicitly that 

˘the embryonic stem cells are
derived from humans, mice, birds, sheep, pigs, cattle, goats or fish

÷ to be
used to create 


Ă (mixed-species) animals.

Only last month, when publicly challenged by Greenpeace on a patent
application to cover human/animal embryos, the EPO stated that such

˘would never be granted

÷. At that moment the patent revealed by
Greenpeace today had already been granted for more than a year.

˘The European Patent Office (EPO), previously involved in the rather
mundane business of granting patents to industrial inventions, has taken
a quantum leap into the field of granting patents on life 

ű from human
and animal organs and genes to plants. The EPO treats human and
animal genes and organs- when isolated from living organisms - as well
as plants as 

Šbiological material

Ă and as human inventions. It is no
accident that patents are also granted on mixed- species embryos,

÷ said
Christoph Then, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaigner.

In June 1999, the EPO quietly took a decision to implement the European
Union Biotech Patents Directive (98/44/EC), which allows patents on life.
The provisions of this directive are in direct conflict with those of the
Patent Convention - which is not an EU instrument - and which the EPO
is legally obliged to implement. (1)

Information collected by Greenpeace shows that during the past year,
the EPO has granted several patents also on seeds and plant varieties,
despite the fact that the patent convention law itself prohibits such

˘The EPO has overstepped its mandate given in its founding treaty - the
European Patent Convention. It is unacceptable that the EPO ignores its
own legal basis and the negative impacts of these patents on life. The
Diplomatic Conference of the member states has the legal power and the
moral obligation to overturn the decision to implement the controversial
EU Directive which is now criticised by many European states,

÷ said

For more information:
In Munich, Germany, Christoph Then, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering
Campaigner; Tel: +49-171-8780-832; Thomas Schweiger, Greenpeace GE
campaigner, Tel: +49-171-8780-844; Michael Hopf, Press Officer,
Greenpeace Germany, Tel: +49-171-8780-835; In Brussels: Brigid Gavin,
Greenpeace EU Advisor for the GE campaign, Tel: +32-496163365;
Lorenzo Consoli, GP EU office Press Officer, Tel: +32-75 955465


Notes to the editors:

(1) As the European Patent Office interprets all exemption from
patentability as narrowly as possible 

ű in other words grants patents
unless they are explicitly forbidden 

ű life is not covered by any exclusion
from patenting.

Most EU countries have not yet implemented the Biotech Patent
Directive (98/44/EC) into their national law despite the fact that the dead-
line to do so passed last July. In October, the German government
decided to initiate a re-negotiation process on EU level. The Netherlands,
Italy and Norway have disputed the EU Biotech Patent Directive at the
European Court of Justice. France has stated that it cannot implement the
directives as it currently stands. Also Belgium has also voiced its

The parties of the convention are set to meet in a diplomatic conference
on 20th 

ű 29th November, 2000, in Munich, Germany. Greenpeace and
other Non-Governmental Organisation have been denied access to the
EPC Conference although the industy representatives are allowed to