SWISSAID is decidedly opposed to patents on life. Such patents hinder social and economic development in poverty-stricken countries and hamper independent research.
Past experience already shows how patents on medicines, vaccines and treatment methods make medical care more expensive and then unaffordable for impoverished people. Patents on seeds and animals not only threaten to deprive farmers worldwide of their ownership rights, but also restrict independent research and farming and add to the costs of food production.
Patents prohibit farmers from using their own seeds
SWISSAID has issued warnings about the negative consequences of patents on agriculture in developing countries. Patented plants and animals will make food prices more expensive in the longer term.
If seeds are patented, as is the case for all genetically modified plants, for example, farmers are prevented from re-sowing seeds from their own harvest. They must either pay the patent holder an annual licence fee or purchase new seeds, which causes farmers to become dependent on agricultural companies.
In Brazil and India, farmers must purchase patented seeds at inflated prices or pay a fee for each harvest. In the USA and Canada, farmers have been ordered to pay heavy fines because the agricultural company Monsanto argued they had not paid the licensing fees.
Developing local varieties is prohibited
In developing countries, the majority of farmers rely on the freedom to set aside and use seeds and plants from their own harvest. Exchanging seeds among the farming community and developing different strains and, in particular, local varieties continue to play a key role.
The diversity of plant varieties and working animal breeds that we are familiar with today is thanks to centuries of the activities of farming communities and rural people in selecting and managing different genetic strains. Now, multinational agricultural companies are trying to gain control of this wealth.