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Swiss biotech giant, Syngenta, has been granted a patent on some novel tomatoes, including the plants themselves, their seeds and their fruit.
The novelty value of these tomatoes is their particularly high levels of 'flavonols' which are micronutrients recognised as being healthful for the heart besides having anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-allergic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Despite the patent, the tomatoes are not GM, but have been 'invented' by crossing flavonol-rich wild tomatoes with domestic varieties. Extensive (expensive) genetic science was, of course, employed to find the appropriate wild strains and to guide the breeding process, but why the fancy tomatoes should command more than old-fashioned breeders' rights isn't clear. Moreover, European patent law prohibits patents on plant varieties and on methods of classical breeding.
Watchdog organisation, No Patent on Seeds, has pointed out that the European Patent Office (EPO) exists to promote innovation in business, and is controlled only by a single Administrative Council. EPO revenue is increased by granting patents. There seems to be little or no incentive to refuse a patent.
For the European public, this patent on conventional tomatoes opens the door to ownership of all our food by big corporations: all they need to do is find a gene in a wild relative to 'enhance' your food with.
Back in 2012, the European Parliament demanded the EPO stop granting such patents on conventionally-bred plants. If the Parliament is powerless, we need networking amongst governments to put a stop any more such patents.
Safeguard your future food: demand a STOP to patents on life.
- Yao LH, et al., 2004, Flavonoids in food and their health benefits, Plant Foods and Human Nutrition 59(3)
- Sally Robertson, What are Flavonoids? www.news-medical.net
- New patent granted on tomatoes derived from classical breeding, No Patents on Seeds, 25.08.15