| MUNICH, Germany,
March 8, 2005: In a victory for seed savers everywhere,
the European Patent Office ruled that the fungicidal properties
of the Neem tree were already well documented by the indigenous
people of India and there fore could not be patented.
The battle over the right to patent the Neem’s qualities
has raged on for ten years now between U.S. biorational
pesticide company Thermo Trilogy, who hoped to secure
exclusive rights to market the genes, and environmentalists
who maintained the patent law was being misused to transfer
biological wealth from the South to a few corporations,
scientists, and countries of the North. In the end the
court convinced by the opposition’s argument that
the fungicidal properties had been public knowledge in
India for many centuries ruled that Thermo Trilogy could
not have discovered the traits.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Indian environmentalist and part
of the three member opposition team, traveled from India
to be present at the hearing. After the decision was
announced she commented, “What a lovely celebration
for the women of India that this long-awaited decision
falls on March 8th, International Women’s Day.
Denying the patent means upholding the value of traditional
knowledge for millions of women not only in India, but
throughout the South.”
The decision upheld an earlier ruling to revoke the
Neem patent in its entirety and officially closed what
has been called the “world’s first biopiracy
Linda Bullard, former President of the International
Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
and another member of the opposition, stated, “We
are deeply gratified that through our case the EPO has
recognized the intellectual achievements of the South.
We were able to establish that traditional knowledge
systems can be a means of establishing “prior
art” and thus used to destroy the claims of “novelty”
and “inventiveness” in these biopiracy patents.
This now becomes case law, but the historic precedent
must be further developed and transposed into overall
international legal frameworks so that this type of
theft is no longer possible.”
Magda Aelvoet, Belgian Minister of State and former
Health and Environment Minister was the third member
of the opposition.