Fifty non-governmental organisations from around the world, including Swissaid, the Berne Declaration and Bio Suisse, have asked for restrictions on patenting life forms.
They have handed over a petition to the Munich-based European Patent Office demanding that ordinary plants and animals not benefit from patent protection.
The organisations are concerned that just a few agrochemical companies will gain a stranglehold on the food market.
The NGOs are warning that an ever-increasing number of patent requests will be filed. They cite the example of a patent granted for broccoli to British firm Plant Bioscience in 2002.
An appeal against this decision is pending, but if it is turned down another 34 patents of this type will be considered valid, with another 100 still waiting for approval.