Seed patents are the subject of a nontroversy, which maintains the patents are at the center of the malevolent control of food supplies and that they hamstring honest, hardworking farmers.
Yet these patents are as legitimate as ones on inventions and on copyrights that protect music, paintings, and software. Human molecular geneticist, Dr. Layla Katiraee, explained that to disallow seed patents would enable the competition “to reverse engineer a product at a fraction of the price.”
Officials grant seed patents if the plant variety can be shown to be new, distinct, genetically stable and uniform.
While associated primarily with genetic modification, patented seeds also exist in the plant world. For example, many varieties of orchids are the result of research and experiment.
Few would suggest that the team which achieved the long-sought blue rose should not reap the financial rewards for doing so. Yet, there are those which feel it is unethical to do the same with a seed that is made sturdier or more drought resistant.
Seed piracy is a serious issue. Besides it being ill-gotten gain, it can lead to seeds being sold and planted in regions where they have not been approved and this can cause contamination. Planting them in the wrong climate or soil could lead to devastating crop loss and land damage.
Internet legend holds that GMOs contain a self-destroying terminator gene to ensure farmers have to buy a full seed supply every year. This is false, as there have never been commercially-available terminator genes.
Since GMO Seeds are not sterile, companies prevent the replanting of seeds by having their customers sign a contract whereby they obtain an annual license. Farmers agree not to sell or distribute the product in regions where the product is not registered. None of this ties the farmer to a company for any duration beyond the length of the contract. Further, many farmers buy new seeds each season anyway, even if the seeds are not GMO or are not under a licensing agreement.
Katiraee wrote that this is because “seeds are often sold as hybrids, which have the best of the traits that breeders were looking for. However, once these plants grow and produce seeds of their own, it is unlikely that the latter will have all the beneficial traits present.”
So seed patents serve to protect food supply and distribution, not hamper them.