Seed is owned by farmers who sowed, bread, saved and exchanged it for thousands of years. Sadly, the arrival of commercial seed industries changed the whole picture. Theses Multinational Corporation had successfully taken away the ownership of seeds from the hands of the farmers in the form of patents. At present, seeds are largely controlled by industrial giants like Monsanto, Du Pont, Syngenta and Bayer.
A patent is an exclusive right granted to an inventor to make and sell the patented product. Patent prevent farmers from saving or exchanging seed, therefore, undermining the farmers’ rights or seed sovereignty. Patent creates monopolies, which undermine the choice of farmers as well as all citizens as eaters.
A seed is not an invention. That is why patents on seeds are illegitimate. Even in a genetically engineered crop, the original seed come from farmers. Patents on seed are therefore based on biopiracy.
The article 27.3(b) in the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of WTO states “Parties may exclude from patentability plants and animals other than microorganisms, and essentially biological process for the production of plants or animals other than non-biological and microbiological processes. However, parties shall provide for the protection of plant varieties either by patents or by an effective sui generis system or by any combination thereof. This provision shall be reviewed four years after the entry into force of the Agreements establishing the WTO.”
This article was supposed to be reviewed in 1999. Most countries asked for removal on patents on life, and for recognising Biopiracy as illegal. The review has not been allowed to be completed.
Patents on seed which allow corporations to own seed are illegal at many levels.
First, seed is not an invention. Seed is constantly creating and recreating itself. To treat seed as a corporate invention and grant corporations patents on seed violates ethics or patent law itself.
Secondly, all seed has been evolved by nature and farmers over millennia. The corporation takes farmers varieties, use the trait they found commercially useful, and take a patent or intellectual property right. Patents on seed are always based on Biopiracy.
Thirdly, patents on seed allow corporations to prevent farmers from saving and exchanging seed. Thus patent violates farmers’ right to save, use, reuse, breed and exchange seed as their commons.
Fourthly, patents on seed allow corporations to sue farmers’ after the GMO is owned by corporations.They genetically contaminate farmers’ non GMO crops. This happened to Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer.
Fifthly, the international law that forced patents on seed, the TRIPS agreement, is itself currently illegal because it exists in violation of the mandatory review built into the agreement.
The following interactive infographic shows the major seed industry players who are trying to capture the market with their seed patents.