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Academies exploring EU patent regime for genome-edited crops

Image: Valentin Valkov, via Shutterstock

Taskforce to address “competitive disadvantage” for academic researchers and smaller breeders under current system

A group of European learned academies is to explore the suitability of Europe’s patenting system for emerging genomic technologies in crop development.

Newer techniques for genome editing, such as Crispr/Cas, have revolutionised scientists’ ability to accurately modify the genes of plants and animals in recent years, leading to pressure to update decades-old EU regulations on genetically modified organisms.

According to the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities (Allea), the EU’s existing patent and licensing regime “can be considered a clear competitive disadvantage for academic researchers and smaller breeders”, partly due to its complexity in relation to new genomic techniques.

Taskforce assembled

Allea announced on 5 December that it has assembled an eight-member taskforce to look into how European researchers, small breeders and farmers could benefit from new genomic techniques.

It said that academic researchers and small breeders have concerns that such techniques “are typically being patented and monopolised by a number of big multinational companies”.

The taskforce will explore options including increasing skills for navigating existing patents and licensing as well as potentially reforming the European patent system.