Coincidentally, it seems, our favorite IPR-blogger Kathryn recently decided to take a look at the status of the famous Enola bean case. And lo! Just a week ago the US Patent and Trademark Office rejected yet again Larry Proctor’s patent claim on these beans.
Which won’t mean anything to anyone who has not been following the story. But no matter. Kathryn provides and excellent summary that will bring you up to speed, and resources to pursue things further. What I find most intriguing is her summary of the value of biodiversity, as demonstrated by the case:
One final point is that it seems fairly evident that Proctorâ€™s accessing of the beans was contrary to the CBD – although there could be some debate as to whether he was accessing genetic resources or accessing biological resources. What impact have his actions had on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity? I donâ€™t have any specific information on this but I can offer some theories.
Certainly, Proctorâ€™s work points to the value of biodiversity. As his selective breeding of the beans went on, he found that â€œthe roots ran deeper than other bean plants; the pods were more hardy, more resistant to moisture.â€ But his attempts to keep the value of the biodiversity to himself could be counter-productive to protecting biodiversity. With no benefits returning to Mexico, the incentives for the country and its farmers to protect biodiversity are diminished. Indeed, by economically harming Mexican farmers by trying to prevent the importation of yellow beans to the US, Proctor could be harming biodiversity if the farmers are forced to turn to more environmentally-harmful ways of earning a living. On the other hand, if the farming of yellow beans for export became very lucrative, this could also harm biodiversity if fields are devoted to monocultures of yellow beans with other varieties abandoned.