And Don't Forget The Seed Patents...

from the patent-silliness dept

This story isn't anything new, but the NY Times has an update on Monsanto's laswuits against those who dare to plant seeds that were genetically modified by Monsanto. Here's what happened: a farmer bought some modified seeds from Monsanto and grew his crops. At the end of the year, he saved some of the seeds from the plants and replanted them the following year. Monsanto claims he's "stealing" from them. They've sued plenty of other farmers and won - but one case has now reached the federal appeals court who (hopefully) will take a more common sense approach to something like this. If you follow patent lawsuits, Monsanto's seed lawsuits are nothing new, but the cases do have some interesting parallels with the music industry's lawsuits against those who share copyrighted music. It's another case where, because someone slaps a "license" agreement on what you buy, you're don't actually own it, any more. While it may seem obvious that you can hang onto the seeds from plants you grow, thanks to a very legalistic "technology agreement" on the bag of seeds, the farmers were supposed to understand that they simply had to ditch the seeds. This seems backwards and wasteful - but makes sense, thanks to our backwards intellectual property rules.


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  1.  
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    dorpus, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 2:36am

    Not the same

    Monsanto is acting like that because of the irrational public outcry against GM foods. Recycled GM seeds can potentially spread throughout the ecosystem, so college kid eco-activists will have a new excuse to put bombs in mailboxes.

     

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  2.  
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    alternatives, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 3:38am

    Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrational' a

    irrational public

    Please explain why opposing the addition of a BT gene into food is 'irrational'?

    Seems like the opposition to adding BT is VERY sane to me. Organic farmers have few tools in the form of pesticides to rid themselves of various larval stages of moths/butterflies (worms). Applying the BT toxin in crystal form to the cabbage/corn/et la is quite effective and no genetic resistance to the gut toxin has been shown due to the non-persistant state of BT in the environment.

    One study shows the worms are able to evolve into actually using the BT protein as a energy source for growth over 50 generations of human selection. (In case you care about 'irrational' concerns.)

    Putting BT in plants as a gene expression allows BT to exist in a much lower level than normally applied by Organic Farmers. Genes can also move to other plants, where its expression can result in lower BT production, thus providing an additional vector for the moth/butterfly larve to obtain resistance.

    The organic farmers will suffer economic damage due to crop damage when the tool for worm killing - BT - is rendered ineffective. The organic farmers of the future can sue over this damage, sure. But they would get the empty shell of Monsanto, while the money made off the BT product will have long ago been spent by the corporate officers on their childern/homes and the politions who did nothing to stop them are untouchable due to the immunity of the sovergin.

    So, please explain what is 'irrational' about wanting to see organic farmers have a cheap and effective way to kill worms so they can produce organic crops?

     

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  3.  
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    dorpus, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 3:57am

    Re: Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrationa

    Several problems with your assumptions.

    1. What distinguishes a "GM" crop from existing crops anyway? The existing crops are highly modified forms of wild plants. Over the millenia, humans have modified wild plants to be more palatable. Modern crops contain fewer nasty (naturally occurring) substances like erucic acid that stunts growth, glucosinolates that deprive the body of iodine, or various other chemicals that cause toxic or allergic reactions in people. Do we really want "natural" crops with the nasty natural chemicals in it?


    1. What prevents organic farmers from using pesticides anyway? It's not as if there is active enforcement. Really, any farmer can call himself "organic" and sell his pesticide-laden foods.

    2. What prevents organic farmers from using GM crops without telling consumers?

    3. Supposing organic farmers are honest, do we even want such crops? Due to the lack of processing, they contain more tapeworm eggs, ergot, and other helminths or fungi.

    4. As for the argument that BT resistance can develop, that has been true of every pesticide. It just means we need to develop new pesticides, mirroring the arms races that occur in nature anyway -- plants have evolved their own nasty chemicals to discourage predators.

     

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  4.  
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    alternatives, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 4:36am

    Re: Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrationa

    So are you unable to answer the question "What is irrational about opposing BT", or are you just unable to read and instead type whatever comes into your head?

    To show your ignornace about BT issues to the techdirt reading public:

    Do we really want "natural" crops with the nasty natural chemicals in it?

    Plants already HAVE 'nasty' chemicals. Part of thier defense systems. But you admit this at the bottom of your own post, so I'm not sure what you are trying to prove.

    Answers to point:
    1) Honor. Pride. A desire to produce what they say they do. Why do *YOU* think others are trying to 'take advantage' of the system. (Oh, and you can test food for organophospates or other 'non organic' pesticides. )

    2) see point one. (Oh and GM-ness can be tested for. Research the starlink corn incident as an example of testing that CAN be done. And Monsanto has to have a way to test for their genes, otherwise how can they sue?)

    3) Seems places like whole earth farms, Fontaria and http://www.localharvest.org/ answer the question YES.
    Tapeworms, helminths, and fungi have exactly WHAT to do with BT? How does BT genes effect Tapeworms, helminths, and fungi?

    4) What are you attempting to claim in "point 4"? That it is OK for Monsanto to add soil bacteria genes because 'it is part of natures arms race'?
    How exactly would DNA from soil bacteria get into plants via "nature"?

    The original poster asked 'what is irrational about opposing BT gene insertion into crops?' So far, you have not answered that question. You have shown however that you are good and hand waving. Please try connecting your brain to your hands with your typing next time. Or at least clear up your overall ignornace about the BT toxin.

     

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  5.  
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    aNonMooseCowherd, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 6:53am

    sue everyone

    If birds had carried the seeds from the new plants off and dropped them on someone else's field, would Monsanto sue the birds? How about the wind?

     

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  6.  
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    alternatives, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 9:53am

    Re: sue everyone

    dropped them on someone else's field, would Monsanto sue the birds? How about the wind?

    If the birds had money, yes.

    Any infringment is grounds for a suit, because the genes are 'patented'. Even if you didn't know about the infringement. Thank God the protection is patents, because if it was copyright, they wouldn't run out in 17 years.

    The flip side can't be done....taking your heirloom seeds and patenting them, then suing Monsanto if BT or other genes enter your heirloom seed stock.

    Part of the Monsanto deal is the contract you sign when you buy the seeds. But even without the contract, Monsanto bankrupted Perry Metzger (?) in Canada over infringement.

     

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  7.  
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    Patrick, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 10:15am

    missing the point

    The analogy with the music industry doesn't hold true. Music is intangible--though I'm sure they'd disagree, what the music industry is really selling is the service of placing this "intellectual property" on media and distributing it. Genetically modified crops, while self perpetuating, are not an intangible product, and can't be equated to music files. While it might be argued that the grain serves as the medium for distribution of intellectual property, the analogy still fails, as the medium would then be the actual consumer product, NOT the intellectual property (people eat the grain, they don't use the genetic code).

     

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  8.  
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    Joe, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 1:21pm

    No Subject Given

    Oddly enough. Wind carries the pollen to another plant, and that plant becomes modified.
    Strains of corn that have been "protected" ie, seedbanks, now are starting to show signs of GM, even if the GM strains were planted miles away.

    So, whether we like it or not, GM is like the DDT of earlier years. It's in the environment, and hard as hell (impossible?) to remove, once in the "food" DNA chain.

    Scares the eeby jeeby outta me.

     

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  9.  
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    dorpus, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrationa

    >So are you unable to answer the question "What is irrational about opposing BT",

    Why oppose BT instead of any number of other natural or artificial chemicals contained in plants? Where is the proof that BT harms people?

    >1) Honor. Pride. A desire to produce what they say they do. Why do *YOU* think others are trying to 'take advantage' of the system. (Oh, and you can test food for organophospates or other 'non organic' pesticides. )

    I've heard tales of enterprising fellows who picked fruit from an abandoned fruit orchard and sold them to gullible yuppies as "organic" produce. But according to you, organic farmers are nice people who couldn't possibly do such things. Very interesting.

    >2) see point one. (Oh and GM-ness can be tested for. Research the starlink corn incident as an example of testing that CAN be done. And Monsanto has to have a way to test for their genes, otherwise how can they sue?)

    Oh yes, that starlink corn incident, in which no human is known to have suffered. But that didn't matter to the public. It could be that there are plenty of GM foods (organic or not) being sold over the counter, that are either not tested or not detectable, but the gullible masses keep eating their "health" food. Maybe the food industry does profit off the gullible people that believe in "they're putting chemicals in our food."

    >3) Seems places like whole earth farms, Fontaria and http://www.localharvest.org/ answer the question YES.
    Tapeworms, helminths, and fungi have exactly WHAT to do with BT? How does BT genes effect Tapeworms, helminths, and fungi?

    I wasn't referring to BT in particular, but pesticides or fungicides in general. Could it be that the places you mention are corporations run by yuppies with MBAs? Could it be that they hire professional marketers who know how to push the buttons of the "organic" crowd, by showing them cute cartoons of vegetables and kindly old farmers? Gullible hippies pay a fortune to buy this stuff, while the MBAs are soaking in their hot tubs with French champagne.


    >4) What are you attempting to claim in "point 4"? That it is OK for Monsanto to add soil bacteria genes because 'it is part of natures arms race'?

    Yes, why not? We are a part of nature, nature doesn't readily give us the food we need, so we battle for the food we need. If we are serious about letting nature take its course, then we should let all the starving babies in Africa die, since they depend on our handouts.


    >How exactly would DNA from soil bacteria get into plants via "nature"?

    Any number of ways. Some plant bacteria are known to directly insert their genes into plant cells. Viruses transport genes between unrelated species. Free-floating DNA from dead bacteria can and do get into the cells of other species. Our human genome is about 90% junk DNA, which comes mostly from viruses. Viruses messed up inserting their genes into us, so we carry the leftover garbage. Some of our genes are "jumping genes" that parasitize the genome and attempts to make many copies of itself, possibly originating from viruses.










     

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  10.  
    identicon
    alternatives, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrationa

    So are you unable to answer the question "What is irrational about opposing BT",

    Why oppose BT instead of any number of other natural or artificial chemicals contained in plants? Where is the proof that BT harms people?


    What part of BT is presently an effective organic pesticide and theuse of BT producting genes will render BT ineffective in the future, thus depriving BT as a tool for future organic farmers are you unable to understand?

    Where have I made any claims about 'harming people'?

    I wasn't referring to BT in particular,

    I can understand WHY you want to avoid the topic, as you seem ignornant as to how BT protien works.

    How exactly would DNA from soil bacteria get into plants via "nature"?

    Any number of ways.


    And yet, over the millions of years plants and bacteria have co-existed the 'number of ways' havn't happened in the case of the toxin of BT.
    You make many claims, but reality isn't backing your claims up.




    Once again: What is irrational about not wanting BT as genes in plants?


    You are the one who made the claim that a desire to prevent the very effective organic tool of BT being rendered useless in the future as irrational. So back up your claim with something better than handwaving and subject changing.

     

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  11.  
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    dorpus, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrationa

    >What part of BT is presently an effective organic pesticide and theuse of BT producting genes will render BT ineffective in the future, thus depriving BT as a tool for future organic farmers are you unable to understand?

    Any pesticide, organic or otherwise, will eventually become ineffective in the future. As for how to kill future pests, that's a job for future generations to solve. Our track record has been pretty good for finding new pestitides. Incidentally, you're assuming that people will always be dumb enough to believe in the "organic" label.

    >Where have I made any claims about 'harming people'?

    Usually, your crowd opposes pesticides on the basis that it "harms people". If you're not claiming that, then what's the problem?

    >And yet, over the millions of years plants and bacteria have co-existed the 'number of ways' havn't happened in the case of the toxin of BT.

    How do you know? Can you say for sure that over millions of years and the millions of species that existed, not one of them ever learned to naturally produce BT? Plants have learned to produce plenty of other toxins. Onions, garlic, hot peppers all contain natural antiseptic chemicals that kill most germs and discourage most insects or nematodes.

    >Once again: What is irrational about not wanting BT as genes in plants?

    If greedy hippie farmers applied BT as a spray instead, and worms evolved a resistance to BT anyway, what is any more rational about that situation?

    I have answered your questions aplenty, but this feels like one of those exchanges where you don't want to understand what I say, so you'll keep saying that I didn't answer your question.




     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrationa

    Any pesticide, organic or otherwise, will eventually become ineffective in the future.

    And that is a good reason to add BT to plants?

    One day you will die "Dorpus" Because you will eventually die one day, why not just nip off and kill yourself now?

    One day the earth will be destroyed by the Sun and its nuclear energy. So, why not just use man-made nuclear energy and nuke the planet today?

    Your 'position' on BT supports your own death today and nuking the planet.

    Our track record has been pretty good for finding new pestitides.

    Really? Got proof of this claim? Go ahead. Provide data.

    Incidentally, you're assuming that people will always be dumb enough to believe in the "organic" label.

    Errr, what are you trying to claim with this statement?

    If greedy hippie farmers applied BT as a spray instead,

    'hippie farmers'?

    You know spray versions of BT break down faster, right?

    worms evolved a resistance to BT anyway,

    Please explain how BT resistance would evolve when BT breaks down in sunlight and can be in-effective in under 24 hours?

    I have answered your questions aplenty,

    Really?

    When your 'answer' is

    Where is the proof that BT harms people?

    1) That is a question, not an answer.
    2) No where was I saying BT harms/doesn't harm people.


     

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  13.  
    identicon
    dorpus, Nov 3rd, 2003 @ 9:06pm

    Re: Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrationa

    >Your 'position' on BT supports your own death today and nuking the planet.

    Really? You give a lot of credit to BT.

    >>Our track record has been pretty good for finding new pestitides.
    >Really? Got proof of this claim? Go ahead. Provide data.

    We've been discovering plenty of new pesticides, including this new BT you're so excited about.

    >>Incidentally, you're assuming that people will always be dumb enough to believe in the "organic" label.
    >Errr, what are you trying to claim with this statement?

    I don't know, what are you trying to claim?

    >You know spray versions of BT break down faster, right? Please explain how BT resistance would evolve when BT breaks down in sunlight and can be in-effective in under 24 hours?

    What if pests develop a way to metabolize BT? As you say, BT is a fragile chemical that breaks down quickly, so it sounds like pests can find a way to break it down quickly also.

    >1) That is a question, not an answer.
    2) No where was I saying BT harms/doesn't harm people.


    So what was your question again?



     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2003 @ 7:05am

    Re: Ok, Dorpus...please explain what is 'irrationa

    Our track record has been pretty good for finding new pestitides.
    Really? Got proof of this claim? Go ahead. Provide data.

    We've been discovering plenty of new pesticides, including this new BT you're so excited about.


    Then go ahead. BACK UP YOUR CLAIM WITH FACTS!

    So far all you have done is hand-waved.

    Provide data, and show the readers that you actually know what you are talking about.

    The data over years/frequency graph would best 'prove' your claim.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    David Underdahl, Mar 8th, 2007 @ 10:20pm

    Canola seed theft

    the Farmer did not ever buy Monasnto's product. Had you read the articles correctly you would not have printed this lie. The Monsanto 'cops' illegally collected samples of his field and used plants growing in the ditc`hes beside his fields. Any plants that were 'patented' were transported there by seed carried by wind or birds.
    He has eventually won the fight as well.

     

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