Monsanto Slammed for Violating European Patent Law for GMO Melon
The Europe-based coalition No Patents on Seeds spearheaded the opposition. According to a press release from the organization, Monsanto claimed that melons with a natural resistance to plant viruses was its own invention even though the resistance was already detected in indigenous melon varieties in India.
As the The Hindu explained:
Melons have a natural resistance to certain plant viruses. In the case of Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder virus (CYSDV)—which has been spreading through North America, Europe and North Africa for several years—certain melons are known to be naturally resistant to it. Using conventional breeding methods, this type of resistance was introduced from an Indian melon to other melons and has now been patented as a Monsanto “invention.”
Opponents feared that by arming itself with this patent—"closterovirus-resistant melon plants," or EP1962578, issued May 2011—the St. Louis-based agribusiness "could block access to all breeding material inheriting the virus resistance derived from the Indian melon," The Hindu reported.
No Patents on Seeds argued that Monsanto's patent was awarded to the company even though European patent law does not allow patents on plant varieties and processes for conventional breeding.
“The patent was based on essentially biological processes for breeding and claimed plant varieties. This was a clear violation of European patent law,” said No Patents on Seeds coordinator Christoph Then in a statement.
He added that revocation of the patent was “a huge success,” however, “politicians need to make sure that laws are applied properly and prohibitions are no longer ignored.”
Not only that, the melon's natural resistance to closterovirus has already been catalogued for several decades before Monsanto stepped in. As FruitNet.com observed: "The gene responsible for this resistance was first found in a melon plant in India catalogued in 1961, the [European Patent Office] conceded, and plant containing that gene have been publicly available since 1966."
According to the European Patent Office, the "melon patent" case kickstarted in February 2012 after the agency received two notices of opposition from two different groups:
One of them was from Nunhems, the vegetable seed-producing subsidiary of Bayer CropScience, who objected to the patent on technical grounds, including lack of novelty and inventiveness of the patented plants. The other was from a coalition of NGOs and private persons, who, in addition to technical arguments, voiced their concerns over the use of conventional breeding methods.
This case was stayed ex officio, however, until the European Patent Office's highest judicial instance, the Enlarged Board of Appeal had ruled on a landmark case, known as "broccoli and tomato II," as the decision on the melon patent opposition depended entirely on the outcome. In March 2015 the Enlarged Board issued its decisions (G2/12 and G2/13) on “broccoli and tomato II” (ruling that the products of essentially biological processes (i.e. plants or fruits) are not excluded from patentability even if they are obtained from such a non-patentable method. Consequently, the EPO has resumed work on the cases that had been stayed.
The melon patent decision can now be challenged by Monsanto.
No Patents on Seeds consists of farming and environmental advocacy groups such as Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (Germany), Bund Naturschutz in Bayern (Germany), Berne Declaration (Switzerland), Gesellschaft für Ökologische Forschung (Germany), Greenpeace (Germany), No Patents on Life! (Germany), Verband Katholisches Landvolk (Germany) and Foundation for Future Farming.
The coalition also claimed that Monsanto's melon patent constituted an act of "biopiracy" by violating Indian law and international treaties, adding that the Indian government supported the opposition and sent a letter requesting the patent to be revoked. Biopiracy is the highly unethical practice of commercializing biological materials such as plants from certain countries or territories without compensation.
“Monsanto’s melon Patent is biopiracy at its most devious. First of all, the patented resistance was not invented by Monsanto—just discovered in an Indian melon. Monsanto is now pretending to be the first to have bred it into other melons—but to copy something is not an invention,” Berne Declaration campaign coordinator Francois Meienberg said in a statement.
“Secondly, Monsanto has violated the Indian Biodiversity Act implementing rules on Access and Benefit-Sharing based on the Convention on Biological Diversity," Meienberg continued. "It would be a disgrace if the European Patent Office rewards Monsanto with a patent based on a flagrant violation of Indian law.”
The opposition also includes renowned Indian activist and outspoken Monsanto critic Dr. Vandana Shiva and her organization Navdanya, network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 18 states in India.
“We believe that plants and seeds are not human inventions and therefore, not patentable. This patent is based on biopiracy since it patents traits taken from indigenous melon varieties from India,” Shiva told The Hindu.
#Monsanto #Biopiracy of of Indian #melon.In 2004 Navdanya stopped #wheat Biopiracy https://t.co/vs89bUeK9f #NoPatentsOnSeed @PMOIndia— Dr. Vandana Shiva (@Dr. Vandana Shiva)1453274346.0
It so happens that the melon patent is "one of several patents granted on plants and animals derived from conventional breeding by the European Patent Office," No Patents on Seeds said.
So are plants patentable in Europe? The European Patent Office's Enlarged Board of Appeal ruled that plants are in principle patentable if the technical teaching of the invention is not limited to a specific plant variety or varieties, the agency says. That essentially means that in the European Union, plants are patentable if the invention can be carried out in a number of plants.
The European Patent Office says that the number of patent applications it receives for conventionally bred plants is around 70 applications per year, and seven patents have been granted since 1995.
According to research from No Patents on Seeds, approximately 100 new patent applications from agribusinesses such as Bayer, Dupont/Pioneer, Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences were filed in just 2015 alone. These patents are for carrots, potatoes, brassica plants, maize, melons, pepper, rice, lettuce, soybeans, spinach, tomatoes, wheat and onions.
As plant biotechnology continues to advance, these patents highlight the increasingly murky and controversial topic of corporations patenting—and arguably controlling—the world's plants and seeds for financial profit.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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