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eric stasik
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America Imposing its Patents on Iraq
« on: Nov 12th, 2004, 6:47am »
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A new report by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South has discovered that the US has created legislation in Iraq that imposes US style patent protections on plants.  
 
This legislation, together with the sowing of GM crops in the Fertile Crescent by US agencies funded by the Pentagon, threaten to fundamentally change the way in which Mesopotamian farmers have grown their crops for thousands of years.  
 
Is this something that should be imposed on a country  or should each nation choose for itself whether or not to accept GM crops and the attendant patent protection on plants?
 
 
http://mindfully.org/Food/2004/Iraq-World-Food-Day15oct04.htm
« Last Edit: Nov 12th, 2004, 6:49am by eric stasik » IP Logged

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JimIvey
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Re: America Imposing its Patents on Iraq
« Reply #1 on: Nov 12th, 2004, 10:10pm »
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Nothing the US government does in Iraq is all that surprising to me.
 
The interesting part of this story is that the patented invention is self-replicating (genetically engineered grain) and thus is self-infringing as it "makes" the invention by natural plant reproduction.  The license Monsanto uses forbids customers from keeping any of the seed from the previous crop to re-plant the following season.  That was big news here a year or two ago.
 
I don't see why Monsanto can't put that into their licensing agreements, but it's just an odd thing to have to worry about -- self-replicating inventions.
 
Regards.
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Wiscagent
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Re: America Imposing its Patents on Iraq
« Reply #2 on: Nov 13th, 2004, 7:26am »
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I doubt that Monsanto is selling a significant quantity of grain in Iraq right now.  And given the lack of security and poverty in that country, it will take at least 5 - 10 years before a market and an effective system of civil law develop.  Assuming that Iraq's patents expire 20 years from the priority date, the patents will expire on the currently commercial seeds from Monsanto before there is a legal system capable of enforcing patents develops in Iraq.  
 
Regarding the referenced article, it perpetuates a fallacy commonly seen in discussions about patents for inventions developed in wealthy nations, especially on pharmaceuticals and plants.  The article gives the impression that it would be illegal for an Iraqi farmer to continue the age-old practice of harvesting grain, setting aside some grain, and planting the saved grain the following season.  This would only be true if the farmer was using a patented variety of grain.  Any variety of grain that was in use more than 20 years ago is not protected by patent.  
 
Only if the farmer acquired the new (patented) variety of grain, and was especially satisfied with it, and so wanted to grow it again, would this whole patent issue be relevant.  I'm not familiar with Iraqi agricultural practices, but I doubt that they are on the leading age of testing the latest agri-tech seeds.  I think it is mostly a non-issue for the Iraqi farmer.
 
 
Richard Tanzer
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Richard Tanzer
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Isaac
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Re: America Imposing its Patents on Iraq
« Reply #3 on: Nov 13th, 2004, 8:23am »
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I don't think it's so simple as having a choice to use or
not to use seed.  The GM plants will likely end up on your
property whether you want them there are not.  If they do get
there even innocently, you may not be able to harvest your own seed
without infringing a patent.
 
But there may not be a problem because the Iraqis may want the
superior plants.  I just haven't heard anything that presents
their perspective.  Most of the stuff I read on web sites is so
politically charged or otherwise so agenda laden that it's
impossible to get a balanced opinion.
 
I have to admit that I'm a little ambivalent about the IP/sovereignity issues.  While it's
clear that in the long run strong IP laws are a good tactic, it
isn't clear that they are a good starting point for a new
democracy.  The US certainly did not start out respecting the copyright
laws of countries, and nobody gives the patents of other countries
any force.
 
OTOH, I don't see countries with a say in the matter chosing
to let other countries exploit their IP for nothing.  It isn't
good business.
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Re: America Imposing its Patents on Iraq
« Reply #4 on: Nov 13th, 2004, 11:42am »
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This is all raising an interesting issue.  What happens if GM crops are patented and some of the GM genes propagate into other fields, potentially all fields and all crops?  You've got a patented invention that "consumes" other, non-infringing alternatives.  At least it potentially converts non-infringing crops into infringing crops.
 
What happens if the neighbors crops are tested and 10% of the grains have patented genes?  I'm assuming testing all grains individually for completely non-infringing re-planting is prohibitively expensive for the neighboring farm(s).  How 'bout 40%?  50%? 60%? 80%?  If there's a line, where is it?
 
Now, suppose we move that model into something I have a little experience with: software....  How 'bout a patented anti-worm worm?  It propagates itself and protects the host (in the parasitic sense) computer from other worms.  Now, those host computers into which the worm spread infringe the patent.  
 
I'm not sure the law is ready to handle self-propagating, invasive patented inventions.  Fascinating....
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