Thursday, January 23, 2014

Applying the open source paradigm to seeds

Dr. Vandana Shiva explains the importance of keeping seeds away from a proprietary intellectual property model.

Legal background
While saving seed and even exchanging seed with other farmers for biodiversity purposes has been a traditional practice, these practices have become illegal for the plant varieties that are patented or otherwise owned by some entity (often a corporation). Under Article 28 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement), "planting, harvesting, saving, re-planting, and exchanging seeds of patented plants, or of plants containing patented cells and genes, constitutes use" and is prohibited by the intellectual property laws of signatory states.
Significantly, farmers in developing countries are particularly affected by prohibitions on seed saving. There are some protections for re-use, called "farmer's privilege", in the 1991 International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV Convention), but seed exchange remains prohibited.
In the United States, by contrast, the farmer's privilege is considered protected by the Plant Variety Protection Act and by case law stemming from Asgrow Seed v. Winterboer. American farmers may sell seed up to the amount saved for replanting their own acreage.
Diamond v. Chakrabarty established that companies may obtain patents for life-forms. J.E.M. Ag Supply v. Pioneer established that seed saving is a patent violation.[1]

See also:
- No patents on seeds:
- Seed freedom:
- Semi liberi come software libero (Italian article):

[1] the "Legal background" paragraph is taken from:

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