Daily Archives: February 12, 2010

“Patents and Vegetable Crop Diversity”

There was a Patently-O post that came out during the New Year holiday period (thanks VHA for sending the link to me).  The title of the post was “Patents and Vegetable Crop Diversity” and included a paper of the same name published in November 2009.  The authors (Paul Heald & Susannah Chapman) open the paper saying:

“the data presented … strongly suggest that the intellectual property system (including the Plant Patent Act, the Plant Variety Protection Act, and utility patents…) plays an insignificant role in vegetable crop diversity, with the possible exception of corn”

Patently-O highlighted the following findings of the study:

  • “Only 3.8% of varieties available in 2004 were ever subject to protection under patent law or the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA);
  • More than 16% of all vegetable varieties that have ever been patented were commercially available in 2004; and
  • In 2004, approximately 4.5% of protected, or once protected, varieties consisted of inventions that were at least twenty years old.”

Visit this link to read or download the paper.  Also included in the post was a link to a previous paper from the same authors suggesting “vegetable crop diversity increased in the past century”.   I wanted to highlight the summary from that paper which can be read or downloaded HERE:

“The primary argument for maintaining crop diversity is based on the need to maintain a safety net of genetic diversity, to have a broad supply of genes available to breeders who can create more productive, weather-hardy, insect resistant, fungus resistant, and better-tasting crops. We hope our findings stimulate a discussion about the proper measure for that diversity. If the meaning of diversity is linked to the survival of ancient varieties, then the lessons of the twentieth century are grim. If it refers instead to the multiplicity of present choices available to breeders, then the story is more hopeful. Perhaps the most accurate measure of diversity would be found in a comparative DNA analysis of equal random samples of old and new varieties, work that remains to be done.“

(On a lighter note; I couldn’t help smiling reading the comments on the blog post.  Most of them were left 1st January, and it seems those commenting might have had just one too many during the festive period…  However for the record I soberly agree with them that Patently-O is a great blog!)