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Greenpeace Tells Multinationals To Stop Exploiting

Greenpeace Tells Multinationals To Stop Exploiting Biodiversity And Abusing Patent Laws

Rome/Hamburg, June 25th, 2001 – Greenpeace research presented today in Rome shows how multinational companies like agrochemical giant DuPont are systematically trying to abuse patent laws to get exclusive rights over the biological diversity in crops (1). The environmental organisation has issued a legal challenge to a DuPont patent (2), with support from a number of other Latin American organisations, as well as the Mexican government. The research, revealed at the opening session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Conference in Italy shows how multinational companies are trying to gain worldwide control over seed, food and feed through renewed lobby efforts. The “International Undertaking” conference is trying to set global rules for conservation of biological diversity in crop plants and access to food production and seeds (3). One of the most critical issues at stake is the patentability of genes, plants and seeds.

“Companies like Dupont are systematically claiming property rights on both genes which are not “inventions”, and also on conventionally bred plants. Such abuses clearly are acts of ‘Biopiracy’, and many developing countries see it as the theft of their genetic resources by private companies based in the rich developed world, where their sole motivation is profit, ” said Christoph Then, Greenpeace expert on patents.

Increasingly, multinationals are taking genetic resources out of the public domain, and claim them as their private property through patent protection. Greenpeace is demanding that seeds, plants and gene sequences, in particular for crop plants should not be patented. The International Undertaking conference starting today should be seen to send a clear message and become a strong international framework to stop those patents.

“Living organisms and their genes should not be subjected to exclusive intellectual property rights such as patents, and a small group of countries and their multinational agriculture and biotechnology industries must not be allowed to turn biological diversity into private property and the pursuit of profit,” added Then. “If this trend is not stopped, we will soon be facing the erosion of agricultural biodiversity, decreased food security, and loss of farmers’ livelihoods and rights,” he added.

Together with seven international NGOs, Greenpeace demands are the following: - STOP the sell-out of biological diversity - STOP intellectual property rights, which restrict access to plant genetic resources - STOP patents on seeds, plants and gene sequences - CREATE a legally binding framework for fair sharing of benefits arising from the use of crop plants, in connection with international programmes for the conservation of genetic resources in poor countries.

For more information: Greenpeace at the meeting in Rome: Christoph Then, Greenpeace Campaigner, Mob: +49 171 8780 832; Arnaud Apoteker, Greenpeace International Genetic Engineering Campaigner, Mob: +33607573160; Greenpeace Italy GE Campaign, Luca Colombo, Tel: +39065783531; Greenpeace Italy Press Desk, Tel: +39 06572 999 05; Greenpeace International Press Desk, Teresa Merilainen, Tel:+31205236637

Notes to the Editors: (1) See background document: “Stop Biopiracy and Tricky Patents”, A Greenpeace paper for the delegations at the June 25- 30, 2001 FAO Conference on the “International Undertaking” in Rome, Italy. http://www.greenpeace.org/

(2) Greenpeace filed a legal challenge at the European Patent Office (EPO) against a Dupont patent (Patent EP 744 888) which covers all maize plants with a higher content of oil. Such plants have been growing in Latin America for centuries. The text of the EPO patent to be found at { HYPERLINK http://www.greenpeace.de/Intl-patents/patents.htm }http://www.greenpeace.de/Intl-patents/patents.htm The legal challenge was filed by Greenpeace Germany, together with the German catholic Organisation, Misereor.

(3) See background document “International Undertaking”: Protecting free access to plant genetic resources for food security available at http://www.greenpeace.org

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