Development policy and patents on genetic resources
Many multinationals active in the agricultural, pharmaceutical and chemical sectors are seeking genetic resources they can patent and then commercialise.
Often these resources come from developing countries, as does much of the traditional knowledge on how to use them.
If international rules on intellectual property give these companies' rights precedence over the rights of people in developing countries, several problems could arise.
For example, if seeds are patented, this may make it illegal for farmers to use their own, similar seeds.
Moreover, the predominance of such patented corporate seeds might then foster more monoculture farming, to the detriment of biodiversity. Similarly, patented medicines could result in more expensive access to treatment.
What was the Greens' position?
The Greens are championing the adoption of a coherent, global governance system for intellectual property rights on genetic resources, by reasserting the central role of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its Nagoya Protocol, which aims to ensure fair, equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.
We are advocating the alignment of provisions on development agreed within the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) along the lines of the CBD and its protocol.
In particular, we believe that farmers should have the right to use their own seeds and that everybody should potentially have access to affordable medical treatment.
Did other MEPs accept the Greens' position?
The Greens succeeded in carrying the report through both the committee and plenary with practically all our key demands left intact.
And whereas the EPP Group in particular tried to protect multinationals by allowing them to register patents on genetic resources and traditional knowledge without specifying their origins, we believe that companies should be honest about the origins of their patented resources, especially since a patent will forbid the original owners of that knowledge to continue using it freely.
The EPP also expressed fears that coherent international regulations governing the use of intellectual property and biodiversity might hamper multinationals' business dealings. We believe that innovation should consist of actual innovation, not patenting other people's knowledge.
Which points did the Greens lose?
Lead MEP:Catherine Grèze (GREENS/EFA)
Green MEP responsible:Catherine Grèze
Staff contact:Inès Trépant (Email)