> ...this thread seems so important that I just couldn't let
> it be cut short...
I agree. This is a very important issue that I think is poorly understood
by the activist community.
> Roberto replied:
>> Yes, it is good to deal with this issue head on. What do you
>> mean, steal them? You took the varieties from the public pool,
>> didn't you? Once you release your breeding results, they're
>> back to the public pool, and the public is entitled to use them.
>> That's what all farmers have been doing. Earning a living has
>> nothing to do with stealing from the public pool.
> Dale replied:
>> Breeders take publicly available genetic resources and use
>> them as raw material to breed improved varieties...(snip)
>> So the varieties we come up with are truly new, not stolen
>> from the public pool. The resources, the raw material, is
>> still there.
> Dale's reasoning seems (as usual) fairly solid, but what is
> being proved? That sexual recombination in plant breeding is
Roberto seemed to think that we simply take existing varieties from the
public domain and patent them. My point was that what is being patented or
PVP'd is a particular use of publicly available resources. The resources
are not consumed by this use. The value lies in how they are put together.
> That difficult, expensive, and complex necessitates privatization
> is I think an unwarranted conclusion. That it was nevertheless
> held to be a conclusion implicit in the argument...
Not at all! My point was not that privatization is efficient (though it
is), and it was not that privatization is necessary (I agree, it is not).
My point was that privatization of cultivar development is ethical, as
ethical as, say, manufacturing refrigerators, or farming your own land.
> Can we organize, pool resources, solve difficult problems
> by means other than the market (politics comes to mind)?
Sure, go ahead. You have complete freedom to do that, and it is in no way
impeded by private plant breeding.
> And are there problems more appropriate to these 'other'
> means? Is the discovery of new plant and animal varieties
> for food, medicine, companionship (pets), etc. one of
> these problems?
Do you STILL not understand? Did Edison discover the light bulb? Did Ford
discover the automobile? We don't "discover" new plant varieties, we make
> Although it might be responded that individual rights are
> what's at stake... and that these individual rights are best
> respected by private ownership, I would object
> again that the argument is based on status-quo assumptions,
> namely that the public domain has already been defined as the
> raw material of the plant breeder and does not extend to the
> results of her/his work.
Why should the results of anyones work be taken and placed in the public
domain? This is Socialism pure and simple. I respect that position, but I
think it goes beyond this particular debate. But this is currently not so
black and white (see below).
> How to rethink these assumptions? It seems to me that the notion
> of organization gets us beyond a concrete individualism from the
> very beginning (what does it mean to say 'I (sic) am organized
> enough'?), and along these same lines I would venture that plant
> breeding is by 'nature' a collective process involving
> generations of both human and plant individuals in which the
> question of 'ownership' should be dealt with very carefully.
I agree. The breeding enterprise (public AND private) has worked like a
gigantic recurrent selection system, and improved private germplasm always
leaks out eventually into the public domain, to serve as raw material for
new cycles. This is a public good. I think there is room for this to
continue, but this big grey area is beginning to crystallize as we gain new
molecular and statistical tools. Probably, companies don't mind such
leakage occurring (via hybrids, with a lag time of several years). What we
don't like (and what is in the courts now) is competitors chasing selfs in
our seed, stealing the product of our labor.
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