[pp.int.general] patents for seeds

Amelia Andersdotter teirdes at gmail.com
Sat Aug 15 18:49:25 CEST 2009

2009/8/15 Glenn Kerbein <glenn.kerbein at pirate-party.us>:
> I think I should give a little background on Monsanto here. There is a
> brilliant US documentary entitled "The Corporation", examining the
> aspects of large corporations: their actions, their powers, and the
> (un)intended consequences. In it, they go on about pesticides and
> genetically modified organisms (GMOs, as they are often called).
> Monsanto, during the Vietnam War, provided the US with a pesticide
> advertised to kill off dense vegetation (Vietnamese forests). The
> unintended consequence of this product ranged from illness, death, and
> even _birth defects_. Needless to say, Monsanto was sued by Vietnamese
> soldiers and mothers of deformed infants.
> It should be without say that Monsanto, as well as most GMO-producers,
> are huge players within the patent community.

Interestingly, I talked to an employee of the Swedish patent office
who said that biotechnological companies tend to be the ones most in
favour of patents, and that they're very important in their industry.

Surprisingly though, it turns out that whether or not a product of
research is patentable matters 37% of the time in biotechnological
research (more specifically, pharmaceutical such) while in
technological industries it's only 10%
if I remember correctly), so that's at least in part true.

> Anther example from The Corporation: A Canadian farmer, prepared to reap
> the year's harvest of wheat, was sued by Monsanto. Why? A trucker with a
> poorly-sealed load of patented Monsanto seed had cross-bred with the
> farmer's germinating wheat. The court ruled that the farmer not only
> owed Monsanto that year's crop and an unfathomable amount of money, but
> what seed he had stored up from that crop.

I'm under the impression that under European plant variety (?)
legislation you're allowed to save seed from one year to the next, if
you as a farmer purchased it on the first year. But you're not
(probably) allowed to trade it with other farmers.

It's silly though: to me it's obvious that a cross-breed shouldn't be
considered the patented plant, but a new plant variety, so it couldn't
possibly infringe on a patent other than if the patent was granted so
that it holds also for products that result from the original product
(which doesn't make sense, because if they did, how could you test the
patentability of the potential unknown new product prior to it

> On a side note: Indian tranditionalist farmers were, at one point,
> unable to store or trade their seed (within their community) because a
> company claimed the originating rice patties were the company's
> "intellectual property."

perhaps these can help there:

http://spicyipindia.blogspot.com/search/label/Novartis patent case in India

i get the feeling the indians have been sneaky, in a good way, in
shaping their patent law.

> Reinier Bakels wrote:
>> My newspaper today (NRC/H, a Dutch so-called quality newspaper) has a
>> front page article on the patenting of seeds, wich is perceived as a
>> threat by growers. Until recently, they were only subject to breeders
>> rights - that allowed them to breed new varieties themselves. Which is
>> perceived as essential, e.g. because varieties have to be adapted to
>> remain vermin resistant. Else eventually the supply of food is
>> endangered. But patent law now allows breeding seeds, and (after recent
>> concentrations) the market is being dominated now by a handful of major
>> players like Monsanto (US) and Syngenta (CH). They consider further
>> bredding with the plants grown with their seeds as a form of piracy very
>> similar to youngsters making "private copies" of music. Farmers and
>> growers are pirates!
>> While some of you are perhaps primarily interested in copyright or
>> software patents, such developments show that there are *structural*
>> problems in these fields  - presumably to be classified under the common
>> denominator of smart "rent seeking" action by major American (but also
>> Swiss) players. ("Rent seeking" is a term for lobbying by firms to get
>> legislation that allows them to make more money without producing more).
>> For those of you who read Dutch I can cut&paste the articles.
>> reinier
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> ____________________________________________________
>> Pirate Parties International - General Talk
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> --
> Glenn "Channel6" Kerbein
> United States Pirate Party
> "Burn, Hollywood, Burn"
> ____________________________________________________
> Pirate Parties International - General Talk
> pp.international.general at lists.pirateweb.net
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Amelia Andersdotter

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