The European Patent Office in Munich and the Carlsberg company were criticised on November 17 in an open letter by campaigners opposed to the patenting of plants and animals.
No Patents on Seeds, an alliance including Greenpeace, the Catholic charity Misereor, and globally networked small-scale farmers, called on the Danish brewer to voluntarily relinquish three patents it received earlier this year from the European Patent Office.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, documents published by the EPO also list Heineken of the Netherlands as a patent proprietor.
In two patents granted to Carlsberg and Heineken in April, the EPO upheld inventors’ claims that barley mutations provided new enzymes to develop “more distinctive,” flavour-stable beers and also had less dimethyl sulfide (DMS) that can give beer an undesirable ‘cooked sweet corn’ taste.
From their third patent, which was granted in September, the brewers expect major energy savings during malting and kiln-drying by using barley varieties low in linoleic acid, allowing cooler temperatures during the so-called “wort” to remove stale flavours.
Within nine months of publication any person can object formally to the granting of a patent by contacting the EPO and paying an “opposition fee.”
In their open letter, the Munich-based No Patents on Seeds alliance said “there should be no patents on beer and brewing barley. The cultivation of plants and beer brewing stems from a centuries-old tradition.”
According to DW, critics said two of the patents originated from accidental mutations of genetic material in barley or Hordeum vulgare, a cereal grown worldwide.
Carlsberg, in its promotional material, says research and development are part of its legacy, including laboratory work on barley, yeast, ingredients and brewing technology.