Patent ban in Austria

The fight has paid off: new breeds of malting barley may no longer be patented in Austria in the future and thus withdrawn from general use. This clear regulation will be in the amendment to the Austrian Patent Act, which was passed by the Council of Ministers on March 1 and is now in parliament for further consideration.

Of course, the ban does not only affect malting barley, which has been particularly threatened in recent years, but has a very comprehensive effect: all conventionally bred plants and animals are subject to a strict patent ban. This puts a stop to a practice that has become increasingly widespread in recent years: Global corporations register patents on certain crops modified through breeding (for example, malting barley), and other companies are no longer allowed to use these varieties - or only in return for high royalty payments.

"The fact that this abuse has now been stopped is a success for Austrian brewing culture and, moreover, for the preservation of biodiversity," says Ewald Pöschko, chairman of the Association of Independent Private Breweries in Austria. The independent Private Breweries of Austria have fought for years together with NGOs for this ban.

On paper, the patenting of conventionally bred plants and animals should not be possible under EU law. However, international corporations repeatedly found loopholes and thus managed to monopolize valuable seeds for themselves. In the future, a clearly formulated ban will leave no room for interpretation.

"For the preservation of regional brewing culture, it is essential to be able to further develop two of the most important raw materials, namely malting barley and hops, through breeding," emphasizes Pöschko. "Plants must respond to climate change and also be adapted to other environmental influences. Seeds have been repeatedly modified through breeding over the centuries. These developments must be freely accessible to all, seeds must not become the plaything of large corporations," says Niki Riegler, owner of Privatbrauerei Hirt and spokesman on patents for Austria's independent private breweries.

With the stricter patent ban, Austria will become a pioneer for the whole of Europe. Ultimately, the domestic brewing culture will benefit, says Pöschko: "Regional brewing traditions can be preserved even in times of climate change. The independent private breweries in Austria will continue to bring regional characteristics and flavorful diversity into the glass, and not be embroiled in copyright disputes with international law firms."

Photo and source: Unabhängige Privatbrauereien Österreich