The use of patents for new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as CRISPR/Cas has resulted in a small group of corporations controlling key aspects of the food system, with the biotech giant, Corteva Agriscience in pole position. Patents pose a threat to farmers and food producers, with patent applications already affecting dozens of plant varieties, giving corporations control over crops and seeds, limiting access to genetic diversity and threatening future food security.
In some cases, the big biotech corporations are blurring the distinction between GMOs and conventional breeding techniques by patenting traits that can occur both naturally or as a result of genetic engineering – claiming all plants with those traits as their “invention”. Yet the same corporations argue that new GMOs should be excluded from the European Union’s safety checks and labelling requirements for genetically modified food because, they claim, they are the same as natural plants.
This briefing warns that the patent rules are being abused and the consequences of exempting new GMOs from GM regulations could be dire for climate resilience and the future of our food.