Why do seeds have patents?

Farmers need science and technology to stay competitive. Modern plant breeding allows us to develop more productive, efficient and environmentally friendly plant varieties, which benefit farmers, consumers and the environment. But to bring innovative agricultural products to the market, public institutions and private companies need intellectual property protection.

The benefits for the farmer and the consumer are clearly demonstrated by a recent study on Ogura, a ground breaking technology developed by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) that allows the production of higher-yielding varieties of oilseed rape. The study found that in France alone, Ogura had been adopted by 83% of farmers and generated an estimated EUR 1.0 billion, 75% of which went to farmers and consumers. Through guaranteeing return on heavy investments in R&D – decades and millions of euros spent on research – patents also secure a continuing incentive to breeders to develop new traits and processes.

The European Union is currently discussing the issue of plant breeders’ rights, following a decision by the European Patent Office’s Enlarged Board of Appeal on the so-called ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Tomato’ II cases in March 2015. These decisions clarify that patents may be granted for plants obtained by essentially biological processes, such as crossing and selection, provided all other stringent patentability criteria (novelty, inventive step, industrial application, public disclosure, clarity of claims, etc.) are met.

More information: check who benefits from intellectual property rights for agricultural innovation and visit the IP52 website to learn more about IP.