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4-Patents: Patents on rice: the Genetic Engineering Hypocrisy

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Patents on Rice: the Genetic Engineering Hypocrisy
SOURCE: Greenpeace International
DATE:   26 Apr 2005

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Patents on Rice: the Genetic Engineering Hypocrisy

Basel, Switzerland -- At their AGM today the genetic engineering (GE)
corporation Syngenta will celebrate with its shareholders how much money
they made in the last year. At the same time Greenpeace research(1)
reveals how they plan to further profit from farmers all around the world.

Sygenta has spent the last five years trying to develop a magic rice seed
that they claim will cure blindness and eradicate malnutrition across the
world. While claiming that the development of Golden Rice was not a
commercial, but humantiarian venture(2), they had already applied to
patent it in over 100 countries, (3) It would apply even in developing
countries although it had previously said the seed would be provided free.

"Anyone applying for patents wants to make money from them," says
Greenpeace's patent expert, Christoph Then. "Syngenta seems to have
problems with the truth in general. The company also kept secret the
recent scandal involving unauthorised varieties of genetically
manipulated corn. The patent claims now discovered show the true face of
a company that wants to ensure it has monopolistic rights over plant-
breeding, agriculture and food production, without concern for the
dangers to people and the environment."

At least another five patents have been filed for important gene
sequences in normal rice plants. Greenpeace is calling on Syngenta to
withdraw its patent applications. In addition to which, patenting seeds
and forms of life must be banned:

"Syngenta will undoubtedly claim they are happy to allow the free use of
the patent by researchers,"said Then. "But patents last for 20 years and
the company can start charging anytime."

The agro-industry has been arguing for years that genetically manipulated
rice would help combat deficiency diseases. However, agrarian scientists
warn that patents impede research and plant breeding and jeopardise the
existence of farmers who are no longer allowed to use their own harvest
for re-seeding.

The patent applications filed for the rice genome are unprecedented in
plant cultivation. They cover over 1,000 genetic sequences which also
affect normal plant breeding. Syngenta's patent claims are aimed at the
most important gene sequences for plant growth, resistance to disease and
nutritional content. All genes with a similar structure and function in
other varieties of plant are even included in the claims.

Notes to Editor
(2) Nature Biotechnology, 23, 2005
(3) (WO 04/085656) Countries included in the patent application are
India, China, the Philippines and 16 African nations

Contact information
Bruno Heinzer, Greenpeace Switzerland: +41 (0) 79400 8831
Christoph Then, Greenpeace Germany: +49 (0)171 8780 832
Simone Miller, Greenpeace German press officer, tel. +49 (0)40 30618 343


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