Patent grab threatens biodiversity and food sovereignty in Africa

Published on Pambazuka News, by Hope Shand, Nov. 11, 2010.

‘Under the guise of developing “climate-ready” crops, the world’s largest seed and agrochemical corporations are pressuring governments to allow what could become the broadest and most dangerous patent claims in intellectual property history.’ Hope Shand unpacks the findings of ETC Group’s new report into patent claims on ‘genes, plants and technologies that will supposedly allow biotech crops to tolerate drought and other environmental stresses’


ETC Group’s report identifies 262 patent families (subsuming 1663 patent documents worldwide) published between June 2008 and June 2010 that make specific claims to abiotic stress tolerance (such as drought, heat, flood, cold and salt-tolerance) in plants. Just six corporations (DuPont, BASF, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow) and their biotech partners (Mendel Biotechnology and Evogene) control 201 or 77 per cent of the 262 patent families (both issued patents and applications). Three companies – DuPont, BASF, Monsanto – account for 173 or 66 per cent. The public sector has only 9 per cent. A detailed list of the patent documents is available here on Appendix A.


A patent family contains a set of related patent applications and/or issued patents that are published in more than one country or patent office (including national and regional patent jurisdictions). Issued patents and/or applications that belong to the same family have the same inventor and they refer to the same invention … //

… Conclusion:

The Gene Giants are leveraging the climate crisis to win monopoly control of key crop genes and gain public acceptance of genetically engineered seeds. The corporate agenda focuses on proprietary, high-tech seeds that won’t be accessible – or suitable for – the vast majority of the world’s farmers. There is no societal benefit when governments allow a handful of corporations to monopolize climate-related genes and traits. Genetically engineered, climate-ready crops are a false solution to climate change, and the patent grab must be stopped.

* Hope Shand is former research director at ETC Group.
She writes on issues related to technology, development and diversity, and continues to work closely with ETC Group on special projects. (full long text).

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