June 19, 2013
"Intellectual property" refers to a group of laws - such as patents, Plant Breeders' Rights, copyright, trademarks and trade secrets - intended to protect inventors and artists from losing control over their intellectual creations/ideas. Intellectual property has become a powerful tool for corporations to create monopolies and consolidate market power. Monopoly control over plants, animals and other life forms jeopardizes world food security and threatens to increase the economic insecurity of farming communities. The World Trade Organization is one of a number of intergovernmental bodies that administer multilateral agreements or Conventions on intellectual property.
A great little 3-part series of videos about patents and the impact on North American farmers and seed industry concentration "Seeds of Domination" form the US Organization for Competitive Markets. April 2009.
"... for their courage in defending biodiversity and farmers' rights, and challenging the environmental and moral perversity of current interpretations of patent laws".
In 1998 Percy Schmeiser and his wife received a letter from Monsanto claiming that they had used Monsanto seeds without a license in planting their 1997 crop. However, the Schmeisers had never bought Monsanto seed. Instead, some Monsanto 'Round-up Ready' genetically modified canola seeds had blown on to their land from passing trucks. Monsanto threatened to sue the Schmeisers for 'infringement of patent', seeking damages totalling $400,000, including about $250,000 in legal fees, $105,000 in estimated profits from the Schmeisers' 1998 crop, $13,500 ($15 an acre) for technology usage fees and $25,000 in punitive damages. At the same time, Monsanto offered to withdraw the legal challenge if the Schmeisers signed a contract to buy their seeds from Monsanto in the future and to pay the "Technology use fee". But the Schmeisers contested the case all the way up to the Supreme Court: the final ruling supported Monsanto in the company's claim to own the gene however, the court also concluded that Schmesier should not have to pay anything to Monsanto because they had not in any way benefited from having the seeds on their property.
On the Implications of the Schmeiser Decision: The Federal Crime of Percy Schmeiser, Dr. E Ann Clark, Genetics Society of Canada, 2001 Bulletin.
Biopiracy refers to the monopolization (usually through intellectual property) of genetic resources and traditional knowledge or culture taken from peoples or farming communities that developed and nurtured those resources. Click here to see the Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy.
For the latest news relating to Intellectual Property Rights click here for the GRAIN BIO-IPR Resource Pointer.