Patents for Plants

Patents for Plants

Watch the video from this week from Moyers & Company about genetically modified seeds. In the modern world, there is much debate and discussion about the efficacy of genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in particular fruits and vegetables that are grown from GMO seeds or animals that are bred for the food market from GMO types of practices. GMO’s are often created to enhance desirable traits and eliminate undesirable traits in an organism. For example, in farming practices, GMO plants are usually resistant to weed, better able to tolerate flooding or drought, and grow to be larger and more lush than the average non-GMO seed of the same variety of plant. Some people however, feel that such plants are environmentally unfriendly and the consumer in the marketplace should know if their food has been GMO modified so they can opt-out of consuming it if they wish.

However, aside from such dietary and environmental concerns there is an entirely different level of debate surrounding GMO foods and that is the practice of patenting certain seeds processes to create exclusive lines of certain crops. For example, a plant breeding company may create a new farm ready plant of corm species that is resistant to the type of herbicidal spray their company produces by altering a single gene in the plant. This means that the company could sell corn seed to farmers and sell along with it herbicidal spray that will kill weeds and other types of plants including corn with the exception of the corn seed they have created that is resistant to their brand of herbicidal spray. If a company gets a patent for their brand of seed and herbicide spray they then will not only own the exclusive right to that plant seed but subsequent rights to future generations of plants grown from that same seed line. Over time this can lead to only a few companies owning all of the legal rights to corn seeds and plants.

This can be an attractive seed to use for large scale crop farmers that want to be able to plant one type of corn seed and then be able to liberally spray herbicide that will destroy all other weeds and contaminants so that their corn seed thrives. However, the granting of such patents will cut down dramatically on the diversity of corn seed that is produced and grown over time thus lessening the benefits of evolution in the natural selection and adaption of a large number of different corn seeds over time.

As you think about this along with this weeks reading and the relevant video from this week consider and respond to the following:

1. Should individual plants and seeds be eligible for patent protection?
2. Even if a patent is granted to the seed engineer should the farmer, the grower of the seed be able to use the seeds they grow at the end of the season to plant for the next harvest (*ie. Should a seed patent only extend to one generation of a particular plant as opposed to granting perpetual protection over that plant and any subsequent plants that are grown from that same family line of seed indefinitely?)
After answering these questions describe what your policy would be if you were in charge of the world regarding the patent of plants and seeds. How would you balance between the benefits of innovation and research into agricultural practices that comes with granting patents against a decrease in biodiversity and variety that accompanies the allowance for the patent of plants?

In your two responses to your peers, respond to your peer’s analysis, and discuss what if anything they concluded that was different than what you concluded as well as what was similar. Follow up with your own post regarding the same. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________Therr are going to be 2 replies to the students, will post in couple hrs

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