The European parliament has been busy in the area of plants lately.

I was excited to learn of the relaxation of the regulation of plants produced by “New Genetic Techniques” at the recent ASTA meeting in Monterey California.

Today, I learned of a more disappointing development, the vote of a complete ban on patenting of these plants, which was added to the proposals at the last minute. The European Parliament, voted on February 7 for a full ban on patents for all plants produced by new genomic techniques (NGT), plant material, parts thereof, genetic information and process features they contain.

This was done in combination with the European Commission’s (EC’s) initial regulatory proposal on the marketing of NGT plants, which was set to relax the European Union’s (EU’s) strict genetically modified organism (GMO) rules with respect to NGT plants that are considered to be “equivalent to conventional plants.”

NGTs are defined as techniques that alter the genetic material of an organism in a targeted way such as gene editing. Under the current regulations, all plants obtained by NGTs are subject to the same EU marketing rules as GMOs, which are among the strictest in the world. The aim of the EC’s proposal was to relax these rules, allowing certain NGT plants to enter the European market.

The EC’s original proposal did not contain any provisions relating to intellectual property. However, following amendment by members of the EU Parliament (MEPs), the proposal now contains a new Article which specifies: “NGT plants, plant material, parts thereof, genetic information and the process features they contain shall not be patentable.”

The proposal also suggests amending articles to expressly ban patent rights to all NGT plants, which extends to plants obtained by classical mutagenesis or cell fusion.

The Institute of Professional Representatives before the European Patent Office (epi), along with other bodies and companies, has called upon MEPs to reconsider the proposed amendment to ban patents on NGT plants.

A well-intended proposal, to encourage biotechnology in plants, by easing their entry to market, has now been obliterated to discourage biotechnology in plants, by banning patent protection to these same plants. While I am told that there is hope that focus will return to the object of the original proposal: To facilitate the development of innovative NGT products which can be placed on the market in a safe way to benefit farmers, consumers and the environment we will have to watch as the new section will need to be discussed with the member states before it can be adopted.

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D Young & Co | European Parliament proposes ban on patenting of gene…