Patenting the "Climate Genes" ...and Capturing the Climate Agenda

Communiqué number: 
99

Issue: The world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations are stockpiling hundreds of monopoly patents on genes in plants that the companies will market as crops genetically engineered to withstand environmental stresses such as drought, heat, cold, floods, saline soils, and more. BASF, Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dupont and biotech partners have filed 532 patent documents (a total of 55 patent families) on so-called “climate ready” genes at patent offices around the world. In the face of climate chaos and a deepening world food crisis, the Gene Giants are gearing up for a PR offensive to re-brand themselves as climate saviours. The focus on so-called climate-ready genes is a golden opportunity to push genetically engineered crops as a silver bullet solution to climate change. But patented techno-fix seeds will not provide the adaptation strategies that small farmers need to cope with climate change. These proprietary technologies will ultimately concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit independent research, and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds.


The Gene Giants are staking sweeping patent claims on genes related to environmental stresses – not just those in a single engineered plant species – but also to a substantially similar genetic sequence in virtually all engineered food crops. Beyond the U.S. and Europe, patent offices in major food producing countries such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Mexico and South Africa are also swamped with patent filings. Monsanto (the world’s largest seed company) and BASF (the world’s largest chemical firm) have forged a colossal $1.5 billion partnership to engineer stress tolerance in plants. Together, the two companies account for 27 of the 55 patent families (49%) of those identified by ETC Group.
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