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Biotech Earth Science

Plant Breeders Release 'Open Source Seeds' 136

mr crypto (229724) writes "A group of scientists and food activists are launching a campaign to change the rules that govern seeds. They're releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new 'open source pledge' that's intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely."
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Plant Breeders Release 'Open Source Seeds'

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  • Re:Uh oh (Score:5, Informative)

    by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Friday April 18, 2014 @03:43AM (#46785881)

    I really don't think Monsanto would care to be honest. Or more precisely, I'm not sure why they would care.

    By that I mean, I'm trying to figure out what is special about the seed these guys are "open sourcing" and I'm really not sure what sets it apart. Good luck to them I guess, but I just don't see what would make somebody want their seed instead of any other seeds they can obtain. This strikes me as being like forking FreeBSD under the GPL license, not adding anything to it at all, and then asking the FreeBSD community to switch.

    It's already known however that several farmers (at least 144 of them so far have been proven to) deliberately try to grow Monsanto seed without paying Monsanto for them.

    Anyways, SCOTUS recently stated that Monsanto can't sue in cases of accidental planting of their patented seeds (Monsanto hasn't ever filed such a lawsuit against somebody who accidentally planted them, let alone won one; rather an organic group was trying to ask SCOTUS to forbid all Monsanto patent lawsuits; a request that SCOTUS denied saying that Monsanto's existing stance was both sufficient and binding.)

  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 ) on Friday April 18, 2014 @04:13AM (#46785961) Homepage

    It doesn't *have* to be done. There's a gigantic number of seeds which are commercially available already, there's many government and private organizations safeguarding these seeds, and the amount of patented seeds is comparatively insignificant. In addition, modern farming operations don't save seeds for future crops.

    In fact, the basic idea behind Monsanto controlling the seed supply has been standard industry practice for 50+ years. Most vegetables commercially grown are F1 hybrids. In 1960, 99% of corn grown was an F1 hybrid. If you buy a Better Boy Tomato, an F1 hybrid also popular for home gardening, there will be little variation between the plants grown. However, the seed from these plants will be unusable. Peas and beans pollinate their own flowers, so for these plants such a strategy isn't practical. However, that doesn't mean the death of the species - even if most commercially grown tomatoes are F1 hybrids where the seeds are unusable, of course there's still a million variety of tomatoes which may be planted from seed (with a little care) and are easily available [heirloomseeds.com].

    This is a symbolic marketing/propaganda move against Monsanto. Monsanto developed a soybean that is invulnerable to the safe, cheap, and environmentally benign herbicide Round-Up. They sell seeds with a contract stipulation that the seeds not be re-sown (again, normal farming practice is to buy all seed anyway), and won a lawsuit against a farmer who intentionally grow a Monsanto crop without paying Monsanto- he would buy the Monsanto crop for the first planting of the year, and use saved seed for the second planting of the year.

    This group imagines that it's hard to find seeds that aren't patented, or at least that it will be in the future, to make some point that you shouldn't be allowed to patent seeds because think of how horrible it would be if you needed to deal with Monsanto to plant a carrot. However, if that future does come to pass, this wouldn't really help - you'd need something with the infrastructure to supply huge amounts of seeds, not just supply fun little seed packets to home gardeners.

  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Friday April 18, 2014 @05:14AM (#46786091) Homepage

    Just to clarify. The lawsuit that I'm aware of entailed a farmer using roundup on his field and discovering that some things didn't die. These were volunteers from a neighbouring farmer's field that blew into his. He collected that seed and grew a subsequent crop of roundup resistant plants. While the farmer was not obliged under contract not to replant these seeds, the act of planting was considered patent infringement.

    Personally I'm not a fan of the laws that allow this to happen, but probably this was a good legal judgement. It is important to get the fact right, though. I would have no problem with a seed company selling seed under a contract. I have a fairly big problem with the concept that planting a seed is patent infringement. But that's what the law allows right now.

  • by will_die ( 586523 ) on Friday April 18, 2014 @06:44AM (#46786283) Homepage
    Nope that is not the case. What happened is the farmer found some plants that were resistanct to Round-up and had knowledge that the other farmers around him were using the round-up resistant seed.
    He then went and did some additional testing to verify the plants. He then went out and collect the seed from the resistant and did additional seed cleaning to remove plant seed that were not resistant. Once he had a high percent of seed he was sure were round-up resistant he proceed to use that and also to sell it.
    If they had just been seeds he harvested and had not tried to make special use of the round-up resistant nature he would of been ok. That he made special effort to use the round-up resistance nature of the seed he got into trouble.
  • by CaptainOfSpray ( 1229754 ) on Friday April 18, 2014 @07:13AM (#46786375)
    The hate for Monsanto also comes from the irresponsibility. They planted Roundup-resistant plants all over while saying "the resistance will never spread to other plants" without actually bothering to check whether that was the case, as if they had never heard of plasmids. Roundup-resistant weeds with the Monsanto gene in them were found IN THE NEXT FIELD BELONGING TO A DIFFERENT LANDOWNER four months after the first crops were planted. Since then, Monsanto have lied repeatedly about the spread of resistance, and what the likely consequences might be - and denied having any responsibility for the consequences.

"my terminal is a lethal teaspoon." -- Patricia O Tuama