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Patent granted on biscuits, dough and wheat

(Thursday, June 26, 2003 -- CropChoice news) --From a news release.

Hamburg/Berlin, 23 June 2003 - Research by Greenpeace has revealed that biscuits and dough produced from a specific variety of wheat, as well as the plants themselves, are now patented. The patent granted to the Monsanto company in May (EP 445929) covers wheat used "to permit the manufacture of crisp farinaceous edible products such as biscuits and the like". To produce its "invention", Monsanto crossed a traditional Indian variety of wheat with other plants, which are conventionally bred, not genetically modified. Monsanto simply uses the genes which already exist naturally in the plants.

"This case illustrates the scale already reached in the patenting of life. Not only genetically modified organisms but plants and animals bred using conventional techniques are now being patented if their genes are found to be of economic interest", warns Christoph Then, a patent expert. "Monsanto is targeting and stealing from Indian farmers who have cultured this specific variety of wheat for centuries. This patent demonstrates the urgent need for a general legal ban on the patenting of genes, live organisms and seeds."

By owning this kind of patent, in the future, Monsanto could potentially take legal action not only against farmers but also against bakeries, confectioners and supermarkets if they produce or sell biscuits or cakes made from patented wheat. Over the coming weeks, Greenpeace will prepare to file an objection to the patent.

The European Patent Office in Munich grants patents on genes and live organisms in line with a European directive which was adopted in 1998, and which has proved highly controversial throughout the EU.

'Monsanto are engaged in the theft of a global commons and patent lawyers are only too happy to take a big fat cut of the big fat financial cake that Monsanto are stealing in return for conferring some appearance of legality to this theft. Sharp lawyers can call it what they like but we see it clearly as theft of public property and it must be stopped.' said Greenpeace spokesperson (Mr) Lindsay Keenan.

He continued, 'Monsanto are a company with an absolutely disgraceful record of causing environmental and human health damage from its past products including PCBs and other chemicals. It is still responsible for damages in legal actions about many such matters. However instead of accepting liability and cleaning up the damage it has already caused here it comes again with its razor sharp lawyers exploiting every legal loophole and badly written law to push unwanted GE seeds, to sue farmers and now trying to steal the rights to existing plants and even to the flours and biscuits made from them.'

The European Patent Office grants patents on gene sequences and life forms based on European Patent Directive 98/44, which is under heavy discussion in the EU. A European wide representative opinion poll which was done for Greenpeace, shows how broad the opposition against patents on life actually is: Only 3% of the 4559 people asked were of the opinion that patents on life should be granted any further (full details available).

*Information for editors:

*Dr. Christoph Then , Greenpeace Patent Expert : + 49 171-8780 832
Björn Jettka, Media Officer, +49 171-8780 778
Lindsay Keenan, Greenpeace Genetic Engineering Campaigner, ++ 49 171 505 2896