Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Yet another gene patenting storm brewing in Tanzania

The East African reports that Tanzania is planning to move to court to stop US and Brazilian governments from patenting a sorghum gene isolated from a sorghum variety found in Tanzania.

The gene known as SbMATE is not only useful in sorghum but may also be used in other crops to produce crops that are tolerant to aluminium. Aluminium is commonly found in soils and is toxic to the roots of many food crops, including wheat, rice, and maize. Aluminium toxicity stunts the growth of crop plant roots and inhibits their uptake of key minerals.

It is not clear which court or courts Tanzania is likely to file the matter; in so far as the USPTO website reveals that US patent number 7582809 was granted on 1st September 2009 to the Secretary of Agriculture (Washington, DC) and Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa). It would seem that the patent application for the same invention is pending in Australia and EPO, and possibly in a host of other countries designated in a PCT application filed on 9th May 2008 relating to aluminium tolerant sorghum gene.

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