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Patenting The Entire Food Chain. After Soybean And Maize,
It Is The Turn Of Pig And Meat

By Devinder Sharma

30 April, 2010
Ground Reality

Imagine the entire food production chain of your staple food -- let us take wheat in this case -- from seed to conventional breeding techniques, from improved seed to normal cultivation practices, and from utilisation of wheat straw as animal feed to food products like atta and bread, being patented by a single agribusiness company. Well, while you were oblivious to the threat of patent monopolies, or should I say while you were sleeping, multinationals have gained (and are in the process of gaining) control over the entire food chain.

The implications of such patent monopolies that puts the whole food chain under the control of multinationals is surely dreadful.

This has already happened in case of soybean and maize. It may next be the turn of rice and wheat. After all, rice is the most important staple food globally, and all major food companies are eyeing to control its entire food production chain. So is the case with wheat.

The global coalition "No Patents on Seeds" has issued an alert. It pertains to the latest patent filed by Monsanto. In a pending patent application (filed on Jan 29, 2009) from Monsanto even bacon and steaks are claimed: Patent application WO2009097403 is claiming meat stemming from pigs being fed with the patented genetically engineered plants of Monsanto.

I looked at the patent claim, and found it to be simply absurd. The patent is filed for an invention: "Method for Feeding Pigs and Products comprising Beneficial Fatty Acids." To me, this looks to be a simple improvement in the feeding process, but if you read the claims carefully you realise how cleverly Monsanto has drafted it to include almost everything under the sun. Which means, Monsanto (which already has a patent on pig breeding) actually now lays claim over the entire production cycle of pig rearing -- from what goes into the feed, to pig breeding processes and finally to the production of pork.

Claim 89 (there are a total of 89 claims) says: "The swine feed of Claim 70 wherein said additional feed components are selected from the group consisting of salt, antibiotics, corn, wheat, oats, barley, soybean meal, cottonseed meal, flaxseed meal, sunflower meal, canola meal, wheat middlings, wheat bran, rice bran, corn distiller dried grains, brewer grains, corn gluten meal, corn gluten feed, molasses, rice mill byproduct, corn oil, flax oil, soy protein, palm oil, animal fat, pigs fat, restaurant grease, antioxidents, tocochromanols, tocopherols, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and coccidostats."

Now let us look at Claim 70. It lists three components of swine feed: "stearidonic acid (SDA), gamma linolenic acid (LCA) and additonal feed components," and also adds that wherein said swine feed comprises at least 0.10% SDA and at least 0.07 % GLA, wherein the ratio of SDA/GLA is at least about 1.3.

In other words, this patent is simply about the addition of SDA and GLC compounds to the normal swine feed. As said ealier, the patent is claimed over meat stemming from pigs being fed with the patented genetically engineered plants that Monsanto has produced. In a pending patent application from Monsanto even bacon and steaks are claimed, says 'No Patents on Seeds' campaign. It tells us that a similar patent is applied for fish from aquaculture in March 2010 (WO201027788).

If you thought such patents are only being filed on animals and animal products, take a look at what the campaign has documented about Monsanto's patent over soybean and maize. "In Monsanto’s patent application WO2008021413, methods are claimed that are widely used in conventional breeding. On more than 1000 pages and in 175 claims Monsanto claims various gene sequences and genetic variations, especially in soy and maize. Monsanto even goes as far as explicitly claiming all relevant maize and soy plants, inheriting those genetic elements. Furthermore, all uses in food, feed and biomass are listed."

"By filing specific regional applications Monsanto shows especial interest in applying for this patent in Europe, Argentina and Canada. Already, Monsanto has filed court cases against importers of Argentinean soy to Europe. In another patent application WO 2009011847, Monsanto broadly claims methods for cattle breeding, the animals, as well as 'milk, cheese, butter and meat'.”

And finally, the "No Patents on Seeds" warns of the growing trend globally to patent every part of the food chain so as to extend food monopolies. Which means that in the years to come, your fundamental right of what and where to eat will be determined by the food companies. You would have by then lost all the diversity in foods that you have grown with, and would be forced to eat what these food companies serve on your platter. After all, all other food choices would have disappeared by then.

This is what the campaign says: "In only four years, between 2005 and 2009, Monsanto filed nearly 150 patent applications on plant breeding at the WIPO. These applications show a growing tendency to claim exclusive property rights not only on genetically modified plants and animals, but also on existing biodiversity and traditional breeding. While in the years before 2005 only very few such patents were filed, more than 30% of Monsanto’s patent applications between 2005 and 2009 include conventional plant breeding. This trend can also be observed with other big seed corporations. In the same period Dupont filed about 170 patent applications in plant breeding, 25% involving conventional plant breeding. Syngenta filed about 60 applications, with 50% targeting traditional breeding. Amongst the big seed companies, Monsanto is the only one filing patent applications on farm animals too. Since 2005 about 20 patents on animal breeding have been filed by the US company."

If you still don't feel like doing something, don't blame anyone. A Grave New World awaits us. And if you want to do something to make your voice heard, please visit the web site of 'No patents on Seeds' http://www.no-patents-on-seeds.org/