A powerful GM technology patent owned by US biotech firm Monsanto is to be limited in scope in Europe by the European Patent Office, which has ruled that it is insufficiently precise to protect a process for genetically engineering plants.

Instead, the EPO Opposition Division has ruled that the patent should only cover techniques used to genetically modify soybean plants, removing its coverage applying to different species.

This so-called ‘soya’ patent was actually granted to GM firm Agracetus in 1994 in 12 of the EPO’s current member countries. Agracetus was subsequently taken over by Monsanto, which assumed control of its patents. An appeal against this decision could be launched before one of the EPO’s Technical Boards of Appeal.