Tag Archives: patents

Was my granny a thief ?

Growing up on a family farm I remember all sorts of seeds being dried (mainly) by my grandmother. There were beans in all shapes and sizes, flower seed as well as pumpkin seeds. It was part of our winter-jobs as kids to help with the cleaning sorting and packaging of these seed before they were stored in a dark and dry spot for the next spring.

Probae esti in segetem sunt deteriorem datae fruges, tamen ipsae suaptae enitent – A good seed, planted even in poor soil, will bear rich fruit by its own nature. (Accius)

Of course some plants do not grow from seed. They are propagated by cuttings being taken from one plant and either “rooting” them in water / soil or by grafting onto another plant-stock (most fruit trees and grape vines would be grafted), but there are obviously other ways as well.

Back in my grannies days most growers did not patent their plants. I am certainly not a lawyer, but from my knowledge the patent laws protecting the “development” of a plant were starting to be written in the 1950’s. Granny and her co-conspirators were busy with their illicit trades back in those days (as were their parents and so on before). Which from most peoples understanding of fairness and common sense would have to constitute some form of ‘prior art’.

The other issue is that, plants being plants, they tend to “propagate” even without your help, and you never know when those runners, bulbs or cuttings might escape the confines of where they have been put. They also have a tendency to be spread by mischievous animals or attach themselves to machinery. Now, without genetic analysis (normally not available to the backyard gardener), it may be impossible to tell if one particular plant is the same as another plant.

What is concerning is that the ‘average person on the street’ really does not feel threatened by our patent system and the patents on life. But there are some encouraging signs. The recent rejection of EU Legislation pushed by Agro-Industry lobbyists was in large parts due to a groundswell of concerned citizens contacting their Members of Parliament (EU). Unfortunately that is not the end of the fight. The EU Commission which is notorious for being circled by an army of lobbyists like vultures has refused to drop this issue.

Reducing this argument of patents on seed (and life) to my granny is an obvious simplification. It might help visualising for many how far removed the average person has become to the food they eat and the issue surrounding this. But when you start looking further into the world and into today’s times, you can see that this has a very real and immediate effect on traditional farmers in what is unfortunately referred to as ‘third world’ countries. Their seeds (and for that matter farming methods) which have taken hundreds of years of localised refinement are being made ‘illegal’. And if not made illegal, they are being denounced as ‘inefficient’ compared to industrial style seeds and methods (which will be the subject of other entries on this blog I am sure).

Time to wake up ! Start saving some seeds and you might save a lot more than you think.


No Patents On Seeds: http://www.no-patents-on-seeds.org/
Seed Freedom: http://seedfreedom.in/
Seed Sovereignity: http://www.seed-sovereignty.org/
Monsanto Justifications: http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/why-does-monsanto-sue-farmers-who-save-seeds.aspx