Nibbles: Spelt, Fonio, Monitoring, Patents, Naked oats

by Jeremy Cherfas on March 11, 2013

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Matthew March 11, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Here’s an alternative perspective to Dr. Savage’s defense of utility patents on biological organisms as a “grand bargain” to society: http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/GeneWatch/GeneWatchPage.aspx?pageId=456

It certainly offers a counter perspective to the idea “The system forces a level of idea-sharing that would never have happened without it.”…in fact patents on biological organisms prohibit basic scientific inquiry.

Also, as Richard Jeffries points out many plant patents are far from “novel” inventions: http://blogs.cambia.org/raj/2007/04/03/why-does-a-dog-lick-himself/

There is also the existing patent on gametophytic incompatibility trait in corn owned by Hoegemeyer Hybrids….even though gametophytic self-incompatibility has been documented in public agronomy journals for over 50 years(Agronomy Journal in 1955: https://www.soils.org/publications/aj/abstracts/47/9/AJ0470090440b).
But no matter, those organic and non-GE seed companies that want to use the trait to breed organic varieties that are less likely to have adventitious presence of GE traits can just pass the IPR lease costs on to the organic farmer….they get a premium and all. And those public researchers like Major Goodman at NC State, Linda Pollack at ISU/USDA-ARS, Frank Kutka and others who are working on corn with these traits can go to a chiropractor to get that kink in their neck adjusted from looking over their shoulders and wondering when the “cease and desist” letter will arrive.

Naturally occurring characteristics like Heat tolerance in broccoli (http://www.google.com/patents/US6294715), pleasant tasting melonds (http://www.genet-info.org/information-services/news/en/24220.html) …never thought of that – how novel! Give that man a patent!

Not to mention that germplasm coming out of NGPS might have “hidden” patents on it. I spoke to Dr. Bretting last week and he affirmed that they are unable to pass on adequate IPR info when researchers ask for samples, and that institutions requesting affidavits that there are no patents on the accessions they receive are told “sorry, we just don’t know that info” — so hurrah for innovation and the public domain!

But, Dr. Savage might counter, we can always use the legal system to protest patents that we believe were unjustly awarded. Yes, if you have hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of time (Enola bean patent).

This sport of patenting does not favor those with short arms and narrow shoulders…but that’s Darwinian globalization of the public domain; and that’s ‘natural’ – right? I hear the used car salesman crying out to the masses, “Bargain bargain bargain!”

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Jeremy Cherfas March 12, 2013 at 11:24 am

I left a similar much-abbreviated comment at Applied Mythology; no response yet. You should post there too.

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Dave Wood March 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Attractive a position as it is, there are some problems with opposition to patents. The FAO Seed Treaty is not working as planned – for example, in the distribution of samples from developing countries, where a lot of the goodies were and still are. I think one reason for this – going back possible 30 years (before the actual term was invented) is the `biopiracy’ approach. “Multinationals take your seed, patent it, and sell it back to your farmers”. Result, countries are sitting (dog-in-the-manger style) on crop germplasm that is needed by CGIAR institutes and national breeders all over the place from the fear that the dreaded multinationals will get their hands on national germplasm. On a quid-pro-quo developed countries are not funding the FAO Seed Treaty as there is little availability of samples – a damaging stand-off with no end in sight. The actual text of the Treaty does not help – something about allowing patenting of derivatives of samples, with a tax on the results going to FAO. Sort out this and you get a medal – I can’t.
As an aside, will those responsible for GENESYS get their act together. Of the photos that go with the banner list of 22 crops on the home page (why 22?? the database covers thousands) seven are mismatched to the crop – what a window to the world.

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Jeremy Cherfas March 17, 2013 at 11:48 am

That’s pretty funny about Genesys, but why say so here? Nothing to do with us.

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Dave Wood March 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Jeremy: I thought it could be added to Luigi’s your `database hell’ file. And it worked – now sorted – so somebody saw it.

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