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The Evil of Patenting Food and Seeds

From Don’t Save Your (Patented) Seed:

As reported on the Patent Baristas blog: “To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Well, There You Go Again!” The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit again affirmed that, while the practice of savings seeds after a harvest to plant the next season is as old as farming itself, you can’t save patented seeds.”

From The Patent, Copyright, Trademark, and Trade Secret Horror Files:

Farmer David Reaps What He Has Sown: A Patent Suit, Patent Baristas (Feb. 13, 2008) Even though “the practice of saving seeds after a harvest to plant the next season is as old as farming itself,” patents prevent farmers from saving patented seeds.

In the case Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Schmeiser, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that growing genetically modified plants constitutes a “use” of the patented invention of genetically modified plant cells. In this case, a farmer had his canola contaminated with RoundUp Ready canola. He saved the canola and used it for next year but then Monsanto went after him and the farmer ended up having to destroy all his seeds.

Naturally, Monsanto is opposed to patent reform that might reduce the damage patents do (Monsanto v. Google on Patent Reform).

See also Carson: Intellectual Property is Murder; and Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Calorie Man” and Patents, where Geoffrey Allan Plauché explains, of “The Calorie Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi, as, in his Prometheus Unbound review:

This is what makes the story particularly interesting to libertarians. “The Calorie Man” is, at least implicitly, anti-IP. Intellectual property, specifically here in the form of gene patents on crops, is depicted as illegitimate and harmful. The protagonists generally show no qualms with violating the intellectual “property” of Big Ag and thwarting the IP police. Yes, there are dedicated IP police, a particularly insidious scourge we can probably expect in our own near future.”

See also my LRC post Re: No Freedom of Food.

Update: This post, Organic Farmers Sue, Seek Protection From Monsanto, provides more information about Monsanto’s outrageous use of patents: “… Monsanto has filed scores of lawsuits and won judgments against farmers they claimed made use of their seed without paying required royalties. Many farmers have claimed that their fields were inadvertently contaminated without their knowledge, and the issue has been a topic of concern for not only farmers, but also companies that clean and handle seed.” Now, some of them are suing Monsanto: “This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s genetically modified seed should land on their property…” Let’s hope they win.


Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.