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4-Patents: European Patent Office forced to reconsider DuPontpatent on non-GE maize

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TITLE:  European Patent Office forced to reconsider DuPont patent on maize
        Broad alliance challenges biopiracy
SOURCE: Greenpeace, Germany
DATE:   Feb 12, 2003

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European Patent Office forced to reconsider DuPont patent on maize
Broad alliance challenges biopiracy

Wed 12 February 2003, Munich, GERMANY - While the European Patent Office
(EPO) was reconsidering a controversial patent on maize currently held by
a U.S. corporation DuPont, protestors from a broad alliance of groups
joined in front of the EPO building to protest against biopiracy and
patents on plants and seeds. The EPO is now obliged to consider if the
DuPont patent (EP 744888) issued in August 2000 ought to be upheld in
light of objections submitted by concerned parties, including the Mexican
government, church groups and Greenpeace.

In a symbolic action, four figures on stilts, dressed as managers of
DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta, the world's largest agro-
multinational, were tacking patent clips on plants and seeds around a
three-meter globe. Other 70 activists attempted to protect the earth's
agricultural diversity from the figures on stilts, demanding "Stop
Biopiracy" in seven languages.

The EPO patent (EP 744888) currently covers naturally and traditionally
cultivated maize with higher oil content. Maize with higher oil content
is already cultivated in many Latin American countries where the plant
originated. The patent holder DuPont claims patent rights on all products
for which this maize in used, such as cooking oil and animal feed.

"This is daylight robbery and the EPO is helping in the theft," said
Ulrike Brendel, Greenpeace expert on patents. "Obviously this maize is
not a DuPont invention but that is what they have a nerve to claim in
order to rob the people in Latin America who have cultivated and planted
maize seeds for thousands of years. We ask the EPO to halt this patent
right away and recognise that the current practice of granting them
clearly goes too far."

DuPont has applied for at least 250 patents on seeds in Europe alone, and
some 40 have been granted.

In July, the Opposition Division of the EPO admitted that maize is not,
in fact, an invention; but so far the patent has not been cancelled.

Up till now the EPO has granted more than 300 patents on plants and
seeds. At present, the EPO routinely refers to the controversial EU
Directive 98/44/CE on the legal protection of biotechnological
inventions. The practice is considered questionable as the new EU patent
directive contradicts the legal foundation of the EPO, which is the
European Patent Convention that forbids the patenting of plant varieties
and animal species. As 11 countries now belonging to the EPO are not
members of the European Union, many experts believe the EPO cannot apply
the EU directive. Furthermore, the majority of EU member states is still
struggling with the directive and has not yet implemented it.

Contact information
Ulrike Brendel, Greenpeace, Mob: +49-171-8780844;
Christoph Then, Greenpeace, Mob: +49-171-8780832;
For photos, please call +49-40-30618-376; for video, +49-9178-90888.