The European Patent Office has decided that they will no longer grant patents to plants that are the result of cross-breeding and selection. The European Commission and its member states had already been lobbying for this for a while.
On behalf of the European People’s Party (EPP) and MEPs such as Jan Huitema, Annie Schreijer-Pierik, and Bas Belder, the European Commission already declared in 2016, when the directive regarding biotechnological interventions was developed, that these regulations were never intended to grant patents to plants derived from classical breeding. The European Patent Office (EPO) is an independent institute, governed by its own regulations. They hadn’t made up their mind so far, but they now agree that products resulting from cross-breeding or other classical breeding methods, can not be granted any patents.
Since 2010, various organisations in the agricultural and horticultural industries have been fighting the patenting of plant characteristics. The use of patents limits breeders’ access to genetic material, as they’ve got to ask for permission from the relevant patent holder. That’s a change from the Breeders’ Rights system, which stipulates that breeders almost always have free access to each other’s cultivars. The main argument against the use of patents is that they hinder innovation.
All parties involved consider the EPO’s decision an important, final step to ensure that no more patents will be granted to classical breeding products.