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No, a pepper is not an invention:
Patents protect innovative research and ground-breaking plant characteristics
Many consumers are not aware of it, but today’s agriculture has become a high-tech sector. Thanks to craftsmanship of growers, creativity of people and knowledge of specialists, ever improved products are being brought to the market.
Scientists of Syngenta in the Netherlands for example succeeded to develop a new resistance against insects for peppers. This is protecting pepper plants against harmful insects such as white flies and thrips causing sucking damage to the plants and spreading virus infections. This resistance strengthens the current biological control in peppers and reduces the need for treatments with insecticides. This innovation therefore contributes significantly to a more sustainable production of peppers.
But not everybody is happy with this. Bionext, the Dutch organization for biological producers, is campaigning heavily against the patent protection of this innovation. Bionext wants the new resistance to be made freely available to other breeders without costs.
This is a short-sighted point of view. The research performed by Syngenta to map out the new trait and make it available for the growing of peppers was very complex and costly. It took more than 15 years to come to a break-through. The investment concerned was therefore very risky. Just like innovative companies in other sectors Syngenta has to have the possibility to cover these significant costs. A temporary protection offered by a patent is in this case the appropriate tool. It enables innovative companies to finance new research into other favorable plant characteristics for the benefit of growers and consumers.
Moreover, the claims made by Bionext are simply incorrect. There is no patent on pepper, plants, fruits or color. Only the entirely new knowledge to breed the resistance into a commercial variety is protected. It is also wrong to say that other breeders are not able to make use of the new trait: Syngenta already made the new biological resistance available for other breeders via a license that can be obtained for a reasonable fee (see www.traitability.com).
If we want innovative research into ground-breaking plant characteristics to remain possible in the future in the Netherlands and elsewhere, we need to make sure that this research is not thrown to be scrambled for hereby undermining this type of investments in knowledge. On the contrary, as a pioneer in plant science the Netherlands should need to stimulate this high-tech research. Making available these innovation for a reasonable fee is therefore perfectly right and in the interest of the whole agricultural sector.
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