How to fix plant breeding

by Jeremy Cherfas on January 3, 2013

Big Picture Agriculture is a great source of stories about, er, the big picture in agriculture. Catching up with Kay I came across this beaut:

GM labeling activist movements are misguided. Fred Kaufman explains that the real problem lies in U.S. plant patent laws which have done more harm than good, overall. Food patent laws stand in the way of good scientific research.

The most direct and efficient way to undermine the food industrialist monopoly of the molecular seed business is to reform these laws (particularly the utility patent law of 1985), and make food property rights less exclusive, less lucrative, and less enduring. … Instead of tilting at the windmill of food labels, food nonprofits should hire a fleet of I.P. lawyers and send them to Washington to demand reform of the Plant Patent Act. When there’s less profit in genetic modification, things will get better for consumers, farmers, and scientists—pretty much everyone except corporate executives.

I really have nothing to add.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Norman January 3, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Well, in the meantime, scientists could use the power of the new DNA sequencers and make the entire portfolio of any given multinational transparent.

Reply

Clem January 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Does this issue really imply that plant breeding is somehow broken? Industrial ag perhaps, Big food maybe; but plant breeding?

Reply

Jeremy Cherfas January 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Good point Clem, and I suppose it depends where you are and what you want to do. My guess is that there are plenty of problems that might be solved by plant breeding that are not being addressed for reasons to do with IPRs and the like.

Reply

kctomato January 7, 2013 at 7:34 pm

One man sees bricks and builds walls for borders and prisons, another sees bricks and builds walls for schools and hospitals.

Limiting genes and thus diversity through utility patents in particular may be keeping some from doing more than what another be holding onto.

Reply

Leave a Comment