The Classic David vs Goliath Struggle.....
should be able to save GE seed
By Alex Binkley
June 13, 2002
– The Patent Act should be amended to permit farmers to save and plant seeds
from patented plants such as genetically engineered crops, says a report from
the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee.
also says that farmers who end up with GE plants growing in their fields through
"the adventitious spreading of patented seed or patented genetic material
or the insemination of an animal by a patented animal" should be considered
as innocent bystanders and not be liable for prosecution.
report wrestles with the intellectual property rights of those who seek
patents on genetic breakthroughs they have made with plants and animals.
"While other forms of intellectual property (such as trade secrets
and plant breeders' rights) do exist, a patent is the most common form of
intellectual property protection sought for biotechnology innovations." A
patent conveys a sense of novelty, non-obviousness and utility, the report
biotechnology developments are patentable, the holder doesn't have "the
right to market or even use the invention.
This is because some applications of the technology may pose risks to
human or animal health or to the environment, challenge the capacity of
current approaches to protecting health and the environment and or raise other
serious social and ethical questions that must be addressed."
report contends that "Amending the Patent Act
to include the right of farmers to collect and reuse seeds harvested from
patented plants and to reproduce patented animals for their own use would codify
the current farmers' privilege with regard to plants and extend it to animals.
This would also protect individuals who have accidentally had their crops
or animals fertilized or inseminated by a patented plant or animal (for example,
if a patented seed blows on to a neighbor's land producing a crop)."
farmer be allowed to use the
seed of a GE crop or the offspring of a GE animal for his or her own use but not
for commercial purposes.
An advisory committee spokesman told a media briefing that these rights
would not override any contract rights between the seller and purchaser of the
licence agreement would still be binding." That could include provisions
for not reusing the seed. . Developers should not be allowed to have patent
rights on plants and animals because they would "threaten to undermine the
economic viability of industries that rely on plants and animals.
Many of these industries are economically more important to Canada
than is the biotechnology industry."
patent rights on plants and animals would enable Canada to "both encourage
its biotechnology industry while maintaining food security and the robustness of
One component of this strategy is the introduction of a farmer's
privilege into patent law.
the same time, a careful examination is needed of the relationship among the
Patent Act, the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act and the Animal Pedigree Act.” It
is possible that a farmer’s privilege for plants would be different for
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