Action Alert

Fair trade or free trade? Let your voice be heard on Minnesota’s future!

The Obama Administration is negotiating two new mega trade deals (one with Pacific Rim countries, another with Europe) entirely in secret, with the goal of further expanding the NAFTA-model of free trade. These trade agreements could have major impacts on Minnesota's farmers, workers, small business owners and rural communities. They could limit Minnesota’s ability to support local food and energy systems and grow local businesses. In order to stay up to speed, Minnesota has set up a new Trade Policy Advisory Council (TPAC) to advise the state legislature and Governor.

TPAC wants to hear from Minnesotans: What concerns do you have about free trade? What role could TPAC play in the future? Now is your opportunity to have a say in our future trade policy. Complete the survey and let them know future trade negotiations should be public, not secret. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard in the development of trade agreements and that they protect local control and our quality of life. The free trade model has failed for Minnesota and we need a new approach to trade. Help ensure the voices of all Minnesotans are heard before trade agreements are completed, and that they protect local control, our natural resources and our quality of life.

Please take five minutes and complete the survey. To find out more about these trade agreements, go to

Patent on tomato becomes a landmark decision

Source: No Patents on Seeds

Published November 9, 2011

Munich, 8 November 2011. Today the European Patent Office (EPO) decided to forward the patent on tomatoes (EP1211926) to the Enlarged Board of Appeal. In doing so the EPO surprisingly followed calls by critics who fundamentally oppose patents on plants and animals. This decision questions the office's current practice of granting patents on plants and animal derived through traditional breeding methods. The Enlarged Board of Appeal is the EPO's highest instance and will have to take a decision of principle on the patentability of plants and animals.
 So far some 100 such patents have already been granted. Breeders, farmers, environmentalists, development and consumer organisations and even the German government have demanded the granting of these patents be stopped. However, the international coalition of No Patents on Seeds cautions against seeing today's decision as a final solution.
 "Today the EPO put on the emergency break to prevent further damage to its own reputation," says Christoph Then, advisor on patents for Greenpeace and spokesperson for the No Patents on Seeds coalition. "This is an important success for all those who oppose patents on plants and animals. However, the public cannot trust the EPO. An institution that declares tomatoes, broccoli and melons to be inventions of industry undermines its own legitimacy. The EPO must be put under the control of independent courts and European governments, in order to prevent it from continuing to take biased decisions in the interests of the biotech industry. Furthermore we demand that European patent law is revised in such a way that patents on plants and animals are completely prohibited."
The patent (EP 1211926) covers seeds, plants and tomatoes derived through traditional breeding. Tomatoes from the region of origin were combined with common varieties. As a result the tomatoes have a reduced water content, which makes them interesting for further food processing, such as for ketchup. The patent had been granted to the ministry of agriculture of the state of Israel, and was challenged by Unilever to protect its own commercial interests. In December 2010 the EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeal took the decision that traditional breeding methods in general cannot be patented. However, products derived through such methods remained patentable.
 A number of patents on plants derived through traditional breeding methods have already been granted in the past to companies like Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer and Syngenta. Opponents warn that consumers, farmers and food producers will suffer new dependencies on these international companies. Farmers and consumers in developing countries are also affected as well as those in Europe.
 During the past few years an international coalition including the organisations Berne Declaration, GeneWatch, Greenpeace, Le Réseau Semences Paysannes, Norwegian Development Fund, No Patents on Life!, Misereor and Swissaid has been campaigning against such patents (
Contact: Christoph Then, Tel 0049 15154638040