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4-Patents: Syngenta - a step closer to "owning" our food with rice DNA patents

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

TITLE:  Syngenta - a step closer to "owning" our food
SOURCE: Greenpeace International, "No Patents On Life!" (both Germany),
        Berne Declaration, Swissaid (both Switzerland)
DATE:   11 Aug 2005

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Syngenta - a step closer to "owning" our food

Zurich, 11.08.2005 - Biotech company Syngenta has taken a huge step
closer to "owning" seeds in the future, by filing 15 global patent
applications on several thousand gene sequences from rice and other
highly important crop plants 1). This would mean, in practice, that the
company would be able to determine price, access, research and re-use of
seeds in the future. On a meeting with non-governmental organisations
(NGOs) this week (2). Syngenta refused to drop its so-called
'megagenomic' patents.

"With these patents Syngenta is claiming the work of breeders and farmers
from the past centuries as the company's own invention. The attempt to
monopolise thousands of gene sequences from most important crop plants in
one rush is nothing less than a theft of common goods," says Tina Goethe
from Swissaid. "Not to the mention the fact that these patents could
block future research to a large extent."

According to Syngenta patent experts, the company will claim all gene
sequences that could be of commercial interest, thus trying really to get
most of the 15 patent applications granted. By claiming the genetic
information of rice, the company aims to monopolise also all similar gene
sequences in any other useful plants, enabling Syngenta and other
companies to determine prices and access to all kinds of seeds (3). The
company is also trying to patent the use of the plants in food and animal
feed. The only commitment Syngenta was able to give in the meeting was
not to follow this kind of patents in least developed countries

"These patents must never be granted. If the company follows its claims,
they should expect public protests and legal actions against it.
Politicians should initiate a legal framework to stop companies such as
Syngenta, Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer to gain control on genetic
resources," says François Meienberg from Berne Declaration.

The meeting with Syngenta also revealed that the interest of the company
in the controversial project of genetically engineered 'Golden Rice' was
primarily lead by commercial reasons. As the company engaged with the
project Syngenta presented Golden Rice as the most effective solution to
malnutrition in developing countries as it is enhanced with Vitamin A-
related substances.

In his e-mail sent to NGOs before the meeting, Adrian Dubock, head of
Biotechnology ventures in Syngenta, states: "Syngenta's original
commercial interest (discontinued for now, but not necessarily for ever)
was for sales in the industrialised countries of nutritionally enhanced
crops, included, but not limited to rice." According to Dubock, the
patent on the GE rice will not be dropped because "Our shareholders
wouldn't thank us if we had forgone that possibility." Yet the company
claims there are no commercial interests in this technology at the moment.

"This statement clearly shows a commercial background of this so-called
humanitarian project. It didn't mean to help people in developing
countries: the primary goal was to benefit shareholders. The whole
project is based on a concept of misleading the public," concluded
Greenpeace International campaigner Christoph Then.

Christoph Then, Greenpeace International, Tel + 49 171 8780832
François Meienberg, Berne Declaration, +41 1 277 70 04,
Tina Goethe, Swissaid, +41-31-350 5375;
Ruth Tippe "No Patents On Life!", +49 1728963858,


(1). As the German NGO "No Patents On Life!" shows in its recent
research. According to Syngenta, some patent applications will be dropped
for technical or economical reasons but they will try to have most of
them granted in at least the United States and Europe.

(2). Participating NGOs: Berne Declaration (Switzerland), Swissaid
(Switzerland), the German NGO "No Patents on Life" and Greenpeace. The
meeting was organised after the NGOs had made public already four of the
15 patent applications during the AGM of Syngenta in April 2005. (add
link to our report and IPR from April on our homepage)

(3). Gene sequences in many crops are very similar. With these patents
Syngenta claims for any genes with the same structure in any plants.

More about the patents on


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

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