December 29, 1994

Volume 1, #5 RAFI Challenges W.R. Grace (Agracetus) "Species Patent" on Soybeans at European Patent Office

For eighteen years RAFI has opposed the application of intellectual property rights to living organisms. In the 1970s and 80s, RAFI campaigned worldwide against the introduction of Plant Breeders Rights legislation, warning that it would open the door to ever-wider monopoly control over the world's food supply. As predicted, increasingly monopolistic and far-reaching intellectual property protection is now being granted to private corporations over living organisms: microorganisms (including human viruses), plants, animals, even human genes and cell lines. Increasingly, these monopolies take the form of patents. RAFI Communiques and Occasional Papers have analysed the implications of these trends - for the public interest worldwide, for public sector research, and for the South in North/South relations.

In March 1994, The European Patent Office granted an extraordinarily broad patent to Agracetus Corporation, a subsidiary of W.R. Grace, one of the largest food corporations in the world. The patent is the first of its kind on a food crop. It covers all transgenic soybean varieties and seeds (regardless of the genes used) and all methods of transformation. ("Transgenic" means it has been genetically engineered with a gene from another species.)

In April 1994 RAFI announced it would challenge this patent in Europe. In October, RAFI retained the Canadian Environmental Law Association to oppose granting of this patent in Canada. On December 1, 1994, with the support of 18 organizations worldwide, RAFI lodged Notice of Opposition with the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, calling on the EPO to revoke the Agracetus soybean patent on moral and technical grounds. This RAFI Occasional Paper includes the news releases which RAFI has issued about this patent challenge, and reproduces the complete text of RAFI's Notice of Opposition to the European Parliament.

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