From Glyn Moody at Techdirt:
The Main Problem With Patented GM Food Is The Patent, Not The Fact That It’s GM
from the hard-to-swallow dept
The acrimonious debate and serious lobbying that developed around California’s Proposition 37, which would have required the labelling of genetically-modified ingredients in food products had it passed, is an indication that the subject inspires extreme views and involves big money. But an interesting post in Slate argues that GM labelling is really a minor issue compared to the main problem — gene patents:
GM foods’ effect on health is uncertain, but their effect on farmers, scientists, and the marketplace is clear. Some GM foods may be healthy, others not; every genetic modification is different. But every GM food becomes dangerous — not to health, but to society — when it can be patented. Right now, the driving force behind the development of new genetic crop modifications is the fact that they possess the potential to be enormously profitable
As the article points out, the leading player here, Monsanto, has built its empire on this fact:
It was utility patent protection that opened the door for Monsanto’s present-day global seed and insecticide portfolio, including rights to its infamous “terminator” or “suicide seed” technology (which effectively sterilizes second-generation plants and makes it not only futile but a legal violation for farmers to gather seeds for next year’s crop). Monsanto has prosecuted farmers who discover GM corn or soy sprouts growing on their land after the wind carries seeds over from neighbors’ GM fields. The basis for such ridiculous lawsuits? Plant patent laws: These farmers are inadvertently violating Monsanto’s intellectual property rights.