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Plant Breeders Release 'Open Source Seeds'

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the people's-meadow dept.

Biotech 136

mr crypto (229724) writes "A group of scientists and food activists are launching a campaign to change the rules that govern seeds. They're releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new 'open source pledge' that's intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely."

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Shame this happened (5, Insightful)

MrDoh! (71235) | about 7 months ago | (#46785797)

It's a sorry state of affairs that this has had to be done. I wonder if I can open source my DNA before someone else patents it.

Re:Shame this happened (5, Funny)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 7 months ago | (#46785953)

Now I know for sure. The world has gone mad. Should I tell my neighbours that the seeds of my vegetable garden are subject to the General Plant Licence?

Re:Shame this happened (5, Insightful)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 7 months ago | (#46786623)

The interesting question will be GPL viral. So far, Monsanto et. al. have invoked a viral clause to protect the genes of their products that are literally carried by the wind to non-purchaser's fields who happen to grow their own seed crop. Imagine the impact of having genes carried the other way! Sorry Monsanto, the hybrid crop is now GPL, unless you take steps to prevent e.g. corn pollen from blowing in the wind.

Never work, of course, but it is a nice fantasy.

rgb

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786643)

This will work unless they are wiling to invalid their own viral claim on nearby crops. The only problem is to find someone with enough money to take omnipotent Monsanto to court.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786733)

well, actually, monsanto is very deliberate about preventing contamination of their products, which is the seed corn. They do have significant competition. It's not nearly as simple as the strawman set up by the same shills selling anti-vax.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

BonThomme (239873) | about 7 months ago | (#46787067)

no, just tell them by saying "hello" they accept your EULA...

Re:Shame this happened (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 7 months ago | (#46787327)

We bought a lemon tree, then we were told we had to destroy it because it wasn't licensed. Got a letter from the feds no less (well, the USDA or something like that, but anyway.) What did that poor tree ever do to anyone? It just wanted to self-replicate and make us free food.

This is absolutely needed. Because yes, the world has gone mad. For thousands of fucking years: It's called dominion.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46788403)

No need for that, but your seeds are patented by Monsanto and if you try to use the seeds from your veggies to plant for next year, they may work, but probably will never germinate and if they do, will be deformed. So get large tomatoes or beautiful corn this year, but either get nothing or tiny, deformed tomatoes and corn next year.

Re:Shame this happened (5, Informative)

kamapuaa (555446) | about 7 months ago | (#46785961)

It doesn't *have* to be done. There's a gigantic number of seeds which are commercially available already, there's many government and private organizations safeguarding these seeds, and the amount of patented seeds is comparatively insignificant. In addition, modern farming operations don't save seeds for future crops.

In fact, the basic idea behind Monsanto controlling the seed supply has been standard industry practice for 50+ years. Most vegetables commercially grown are F1 hybrids. In 1960, 99% of corn grown was an F1 hybrid. If you buy a Better Boy Tomato, an F1 hybrid also popular for home gardening, there will be little variation between the plants grown. However, the seed from these plants will be unusable. Peas and beans pollinate their own flowers, so for these plants such a strategy isn't practical. However, that doesn't mean the death of the species - even if most commercially grown tomatoes are F1 hybrids where the seeds are unusable, of course there's still a million variety of tomatoes which may be planted from seed (with a little care) and are easily available [heirloomseeds.com] .

This is a symbolic marketing/propaganda move against Monsanto. Monsanto developed a soybean that is invulnerable to the safe, cheap, and environmentally benign herbicide Round-Up. They sell seeds with a contract stipulation that the seeds not be re-sown (again, normal farming practice is to buy all seed anyway), and won a lawsuit against a farmer who intentionally grow a Monsanto crop without paying Monsanto- he would buy the Monsanto crop for the first planting of the year, and use saved seed for the second planting of the year.

This group imagines that it's hard to find seeds that aren't patented, or at least that it will be in the future, to make some point that you shouldn't be allowed to patent seeds because think of how horrible it would be if you needed to deal with Monsanto to plant a carrot. However, if that future does come to pass, this wouldn't really help - you'd need something with the infrastructure to supply huge amounts of seeds, not just supply fun little seed packets to home gardeners.

Re:Shame this happened (4, Informative)

wrook (134116) | about 7 months ago | (#46786091)

Just to clarify. The lawsuit that I'm aware of entailed a farmer using roundup on his field and discovering that some things didn't die. These were volunteers from a neighbouring farmer's field that blew into his. He collected that seed and grew a subsequent crop of roundup resistant plants. While the farmer was not obliged under contract not to replant these seeds, the act of planting was considered patent infringement.

Personally I'm not a fan of the laws that allow this to happen, but probably this was a good legal judgement. It is important to get the fact right, though. I would have no problem with a seed company selling seed under a contract. I have a fairly big problem with the concept that planting a seed is patent infringement. But that's what the law allows right now.

Re:Shame this happened (3, Informative)

will_die (586523) | about 7 months ago | (#46786283)

Nope that is not the case. What happened is the farmer found some plants that were resistanct to Round-up and had knowledge that the other farmers around him were using the round-up resistant seed.
He then went and did some additional testing to verify the plants. He then went out and collect the seed from the resistant and did additional seed cleaning to remove plant seed that were not resistant. Once he had a high percent of seed he was sure were round-up resistant he proceed to use that and also to sell it.
If they had just been seeds he harvested and had not tried to make special use of the round-up resistant nature he would of been ok. That he made special effort to use the round-up resistance nature of the seed he got into trouble.

Re:Shame this happened (3)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 7 months ago | (#46787159)

I don't see how that changes things. He was collecting discarded trash from his neighbors, so he didn't enter into agreements there. Monsantos patents on glyphosphate are expired, so using round-up to enrich the trash doesn't change anything. Sneaky, maybe, but seeds blowing off your property are no longer yours.

I could see how selling the seed would get him into trouble with patents, but that's only reasonable if you accept that patents on living things are reasonable.

Re:Shame this happened (2)

mrchaotica (681592) | about 7 months ago | (#46787347)

What really should have happened is that all his Monsanto-using neighbors should have gotten in trouble for allowing their seeds to escape. Since they were the ones who were parties to the agreement with Monsanto, they were the ones who broke that agreement.

Of course, Monsanto suing its own customers would be bad for business, so it went after the innocent third-party instead...

Re:Shame this happened (2)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46788291)

It wasn't clear that the seeds escaped. As I recall he had purchased roundup ready seeds in previous years, then suddenly "discovered" that the seed he saved carried the gene. That's how all the cases I've seen have turned out (initial claim that it was wind blown from a neighbor, then admission of guilt), although this might be referring to a special case.

Re:Shame this happened (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786837)

Posting AC because I know the standard /. dogma is that Monsanto = EVIL

hese were volunteers from a neighbouring farmer's field that blew into his. He collected that seed and grew a subsequent crop of roundup resistant plants.

IIRC, Monsanto demonstrated pretty clearly in the case that this guy was full of shit. He was just a cheapskate who was trying to claim that his huge crop grown from illegal Monsanto seed that he got caught with was just the result of some innocent accident. I believe they even traced it back to the dealer who had illegally sold the seed to him.

Having grown up around farmers, this doesn't surprise me. Contrary to the popular image of the wholesome American farmer, you will not find a bigger bunch of penny-pinching, greedy cheapskate bastards this side of Wall Street. I've never met a farmer in my life who would hesitate for a second to hire an illegal worker, plant illegal seed, cut safety corners, or do pretty much anything else to make an extra buck. They're also great at pleading poverty to the public and sucking more subsidies from Uncle Sam while they make a fortune on every crop--sucking on government farm welfare and hiring illegals (all while voting Republican and crying to the public that they're broke).

Re:Shame this happened (1)

Kremmy (793693) | about 7 months ago | (#46787729)

Imagine what the Americans would do if we got rid of the entire portion of the population who works illegally for less than the minimum wage. Completely non-functioning society right there. Oh the American Dream.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46787897)

Posting AC because I know the standard /. dogma is that Monsanto = EVIL

hese were volunteers from a neighbouring farmer's field that blew into his. He collected that seed and grew a subsequent crop of roundup resistant plants.

IIRC, Monsanto demonstrated pretty clearly in the case that this guy was full of shit. He was just a cheapskate who was trying to claim that his huge crop grown from illegal Monsanto seed that he got caught with was just the result of some innocent accident. I believe they even traced it back to the dealer who had illegally sold the seed to him.

Having grown up around farmers, this doesn't surprise me. Contrary to the popular image of the wholesome American farmer, you will not find a bigger bunch of penny-pinching, greedy cheapskate bastards this side of Wall Street. I've never met a farmer in my life who would hesitate for a second to hire an illegal worker, plant illegal seed, cut safety corners, or do pretty much anything else to make an extra buck. They're also great at pleading poverty to the public and sucking more subsidies from Uncle Sam while they make a fortune on every crop--sucking on government farm welfare and hiring illegals (all while voting Republican and crying to the public that they're broke).

Not speaking about this particular farmer or what he may or may not have done, but just replying to say: yeah, farmer's are cheap bastards. They vote republican, hate welfare, waste water, and bitch and moan about not getting enough subsidies and medicaid. They will absolutely cheat you at every opportunity and you'll never meet a more consistent group of tax dodgers outside of Wall Street. They seriously make a jerk like Romney seem pretty reasonable (and Romney is a disgusting man).

There are, of course, exceptions, but by and large the small American farmer is no different from your average trailer park resident aside from the fact they inherited some land.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 7 months ago | (#46787385)

Just to clarify. The lawsuit that I'm aware of entailed a farmer using roundup on his field and discovering that some things didn't die.

The farmer was Percy Schmeiser [wikipedia.org] . He intentionally isolated and reused Monsanto's "Roundup-Ready" seeds, over several years, and openly admitted doing so. There was a documentary about him, that got nearly all the facts completely wrong, thus leading to many misconceptions. It is funny that this guy turned into a poster child for the anti-GMO movement.

Soon this particular issue will be moot. Glyphosate, the herbicide in Roundup, is already off patent, and many of the "Roundup-Ready" seeds go off patent next year.

Re:Shame this happened (4, Interesting)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 7 months ago | (#46786191)

Yep, seems to be about that way. I've got some blue tomato seed that has no patents on it (Dancing With Smurfs, actual name), and no one makes a fuss about it. I don't see what their point is here. I was about to mod you up but since I actually work with plant breeding think I'll give my own 2 cents instead.

The claim in TFA about being worried about no more germplasm is totally ridiculous. With my blue tomatoes I've got a bunch of heirloom varieties of things (Blue Jade sweet corn, Dragon Tongue bean, Red Kuri squash, Giant Prague celeriac, Star of David okra, and lots more) that can in no way be patented. They are there, and as long as people keep propagating them they'll always be there, free to use. Furthermore, the patents on plants do expire; Honeycrisp apples used to be pateneted, but they're not anymore (by the way, that patent brought in tons of money to the program that developed it, allowing them to develop some other pretty amazing varieties [umn.edu] ). And Monsanto (because everyone brings up Monsanto) is not an exception here; their first Roundup Ready soybean goes off patent [nytimes.com] in a few months. That means this very year, farmers can, if they choose, save that variety and plant it for the 2015 crop. I really can't see the problem people have with these sorts of patents, isn't that how things are supposed to work? Develop, patent, recoup losses, then the invention falls to the public domain, and the profit is reinvested for new innovations (ex. SnowSweet apples and DroughtGard corn). Don't like patented plants? Fine, don't grow them, problem solved. And with the 'farmers sued for cross pollination' thing being a myth (no, accidental cross pollination is not the same as intentional selection any more than making a home movie is the same as recording a film in a theater and selling it), so I really don't get the Monsanto hate people are inevitably going to flame up with this. The vast majority of the reasons they are demonized for are nothing but lies, and yet somehow, Monsanto is still the bad guy here, not the weasels lying and being emotionally manipulative to make an extremely important technology look evil via guilt by proxy.

Additionally, I am envious of these guys if they have a program that has enough money to release things for free, although reading TFA it seems like they will be picking and choosing which is released for free and which is patented, indicating this is just a way to get some good publicity out of things that would otherwise be discarded. I work with a breeding project and you can bet whatever comes out of it will be patented, not because I'm out to get rich (we'd all go corporate if money was the prime concern) but because there is not enough funding for public agriculture research. You think we want to? We don't, but breeding programs need funding. That's a fact of life. Times are hard for funding, and sometimes it seems the only time the public stops long enough to pay attention is to demonize us for saying GMOs don't cause cancer, or autism, or whatever the hell the denialists and conspiracy theorists are prattling on about today. Maybe if everyone called up their local congresscritters and other politicians and demanded more funding for their land grant universities and public agriculture research that wouldn't be the case. Ever been to a corporate lab? Well I have, and it'd be great to have the equipment they can afford. But hey, go on attacking Monsanto and other private breeders for trying to support themselves (anyone think pluots just magically appeared? Someone [wikipedia.org] spend a hell of a lot of time and effort developing those, nice to hear from the anti-plant patent crowd that they deserve to get screwed over for it), I'm sure hurting them will make all the actual problems magically disappear.

All that aside, its damned cool that they're working with quinoa breeding. It's about time we see a stronger focus on quinoa breeding. Now if only teff, amaranth, sorghum, millet, manoomin, fonio, chia, and Job's tears programs will follow...

Mnsanto - hate unjustified? (5, Informative)

CaptainOfSpray (1229754) | about 7 months ago | (#46786375)

The hate for Monsanto also comes from the irresponsibility. They planted Roundup-resistant plants all over while saying "the resistance will never spread to other plants" without actually bothering to check whether that was the case, as if they had never heard of plasmids. Roundup-resistant weeds with the Monsanto gene in them were found IN THE NEXT FIELD BELONGING TO A DIFFERENT LANDOWNER four months after the first crops were planted. Since then, Monsanto have lied repeatedly about the spread of resistance, and what the likely consequences might be - and denied having any responsibility for the consequences.

Re:Monsanto - hate paid for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786759)

uhh, really? You know that they found and extracted that gene from plants they found *gasp* in nature. It's not spreading; it's merely survival of the fittest. Fortunately, roundup resistant plants carry a significant metabolic load for that resistance, so aren't really that competitive more than about 10 yards from a field that's routinely sprayed.

We, being fiscally responsible, wick roundup instead of spraying (way too far north to grow cotton) and, you know what, we checked. Very low level of glyphosphates and metabolites in our soil. We wick over the beans beans every year to get the corn that comes back from last year, and we wick the corn when it's low, and spot treat an area if there's a problem, but roundup isn't free, so we don't spray it just for the fuck of it.

Take your strawman back to reddit.

Re:Monsanto - hate paid for. (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 7 months ago | (#46787521)

According to this recent talk by Joel Salatin, [youtube.com] cotton farmers in the south nowadays have to pay $70/acre to have people manually chop down the Roundup-resistant weeds before they harvest. Apparently they grow so big that they tear up the combine, and since Roundup won't kill 'em, they have to be hacked out with a machete.

As Salatin puts it, "This is a crack in the paradigm." The whole system of industrial scale, petro-chemical dependent, mono-species farming is about to fall apart.

If you've always wanted to start a backyard garden (or even if you haven't) now might be a good time to start.

Re:Mnsanto - hate unjustified? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786851)

Find a single source proving what you said, either about the genetics or the denial. Good luck, you'll need it.

Re:Shame this happened (2)

plover (150551) | about 7 months ago | (#46786807)

A lot of the animosity towards Monsanto comes from their overall behavior. Creating the terminator gene is first to mind. Next are the numerous allegations about misconduct: complaints that they do inadequate studies, they hire certain researchers expecting certain study outcomes, that they tamper with study results, and that they have bribed government officials. However, most of those reports come from the wacko anti-GMO crowd (who are really a bunch of anti-anything idiots), so it's hard to know if there's a shred of truth to any of the complaints.

The biggest gripe I have is their drive to produce pest- and herbicide-resistant crops. Every one of these is putting other farmers' crops at risk, because they're creating pesticide-resistant super-bugs and herbicide-resistant super-weeds. Those bugs and weeds don't limit themselves to Monsanto-seeded fields, they're natural organisms that spread, and those bugs are now attacking non-Monsanto crops, and the weeds are infesting non-Monsanto fields. Monsanto knew this was going to happen from the start of the program, they estimated it would take about 20 years for it to happen (it actually took less than 10 for the corn rootworm to evolve Bt resistance), yet they went ahead and did it anyway.

Had they focused their modifications only on creating high yield and high nutrition crops, instead of trying to fight the resistance battle, their overall agricultural activities would have been a lot more responsible.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786229)

Wrong. This is about ensuring your seeds are safe from the likes of Monsanto coming after you because you thought other seeds were in the clear. We don't need Monsanto controlling what farmers can use. Nature has regular studies on agriculture that scientifically demonstrates the single crop being propped up by chemicals is outmoded and serves the ago-chem oligarchy.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46786873)

Last time I checked, no one was forcing you to grown Monsanto seeds or use Round-up. Feel free to plant whatever you want. But if you want to use Monsanto's seeds and spray your crops with their Round-up, yeah, you're going to have to pay them for it.

Re:Shame this happened (2)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 7 months ago | (#46787245)

Typical Slashdot. Anyone gets downmodded into oblivion for not toeing the "MONSANTO IS SATAN" line.

Re:Shame this happened (4, Insightful)

johanw (1001493) | about 7 months ago | (#46786319)

"This is a symbolic marketing/propaganda move against Monsanto"

Good. Death to Monsanto.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46788315)

Actually it's a guerrilla marketing/propaganda campaign to make people accept GMO crops.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786439)

You are full of shit. Monsanto aggressively attacks farmers that wish to use their own crop for seeds. THAT is the reason why this is needed. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, although I bet you are a Monsanto employee

Re:Shame this happened (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786903)

I get so sick of the fucking /. groupthink sometimes.

Linux is fucking awesome!
MS is evil (but somehow Apple is okay)!
Global warming is unfalsifiable and cannot be questioned! And that's somehow science!
Electric cars are perfect! Elon Musk is a god who we should all want to fuck!
Money should be thrown at NASA!
OSS software is always the best, proprietary is always inferior and bad!

And, of course:

Monsanto is evil!

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46787273)

I get so sick of the fucking /. lone criers sometimes.

Everyone on /. can't think for themselves!
It's a popular opinion therefore it can't possible have sound reasoning backing it up!
I'm a free thinker because nobody agrees with me!
Everyone on /. thinks the same, except me because I'm better than everyone else!

Give it a rest. And for the record, /. has its share of nutcases from all sides.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

g1powermac (812562) | about 7 months ago | (#46786459)

There's actually a bit more to this. As a really avid home grower (albeit, getting closer and closer to actually selling some stuff), I've seen another type of patent that growers need to watch for, besides just the GMO stuff. It's called plant variety protection. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org] Now PVP IP is definitely less restrictive than general patents, but it is still another hurdle that growers need to look out for. Also, as described in that wikipedia article, there are true plant patents for asexually produced varieties. I've seen this specifically when buying raspberries. They had clear warnings on them that the variety was patented and no reproduction of the plants were allowed, though exactly how that is suppose to be accomplished I have no idea since raspberries spread and reproduce greatly on their own. And, btw, these patented plants can all be readily purchased through home grower catalogs, and there's a lot more of these patents and PVP than you would think. You also don't need to sign any licensing paper. The patented varieties are basically EULA licensed for home grower/non propagator use only. And also to clear up a bit of a gray issue, you definitely can replant seed from F1 hybrids. They will grow and not have any crazy seed termination stuff that Monsanto was playing with. The only thing is you won't really get the vigor and some of the other properties of the F1 even if you make sure there is no cross pollination between varieties. And if you play with it enough, you might even be able to gleam a new heirloom variety from the F1 after stabilizing the genetics via standard plant breeding tactics.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

dryeo (100693) | about 7 months ago | (#46787537)

safe, cheap, and environmentally benign herbicide Round-Up

It should be noted that it is only Glyphosate that has been tested to be safe and benign (breaks down fast), not Round-Up which includes various untested surfactants (especially bad for skin though generally low LD50 levels) and such. Not only that, if you look at the price of Round-up in comparison to some other herbicides such as 2-4-D it's arguable about the cheap part.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

Kremmy (793693) | about 7 months ago | (#46787675)

I think you need to take a step back and understand that this industry standard practice for 50+ years is Bad Agriculture. You used the words safe, cheap, and environmentally benign regarding Round-Up - guess what, plants wouldn't need to be given a resistance against it if it was environmentally benign. We're talking about a poison whose sole purpose is to kill living things. If you can't keep seed and keep your crop rolling, that is the opposite of sustainable. If you are forced to purchase seed every year, when crops themselves are self-sustaining when done properly, that is a FAILURE of the industry. Contracts are no excuse for doing things wrong. It's garbage, it's destroying our environment. Monsanto needs to stop killing us, now.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46787865)

There does seem to be a consensus that Monsanto is bad and farmers are good. It's not clear if it is correct or where it comes from.

Perhaps folks feel that farmers are squeezed between high production costs, weather unpredictability, and low commodity prices.

Perhaps the idea that big is bad. Clearly there are big farmers, but not big compared to Monsanto. There is not doubt that Monsanto is big in controlling the food supply. This does cause some risks that would not be present with a more diverse supply chain.

The plant kingdom has a great variety of things which are not good for us. The history of agriculture has provided us with a knowledge of some things we can cultivate and eat. We have a duty to preserve and extend this knowledge. Monsanto's action of creating a new variety did extend this. Unfortunately, this is greatly offset by the resulting economics.

Farmers have saved their own seed for millenia. Seed companies sprung up as a more efficient or convienient way to do this for a modest cost. IP has shifted the economics way past modest. The cost of this seed is set by turning the price up as high as possible so that it still looks useful on the farmer's spreadsheet. This what the market will bear mentality is expected from a patent monopoly. Is this wrong given the relative value of Monsanto's addition to the value of the seed that they started from? The spreadsheet says no, but public perception is not so sure.

One bad consequence of these economics is that money that once would have gone to public research for new varieties is captured by private entities. If Monsanto is charging 10x the non-monopoly price for seed, perhaps they should put 1/10 of this money into public research with strings attached to make the results GPL, or more likely LGPL or BSD. This would correct part of the economic harm done and make more varieties for public use and also for their own use. The risk to Monsanto would be that the public varieties would be as good as their private seeds and so they would have to compete on classic seed company terms. The benefit would be good will and more varieties for their guys to start from.

This would reverse the trend, which is making matters worse, of agricultural schools claiming the IP of new varieties.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46788501)

Monsanto developed a soybean that is invulnerable to the safe, cheap, and environmentally benign herbicide Round-Up.

Ok, Drink it, what's it taste like?

Re:Shame this happened (2)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | about 7 months ago | (#46786079)

You are so right.

How on earth can we feel proud at this initiative when we are overwhelmed with rage at the sheer insanity injustice of the context in which this initiative has to exist at all. And the fact that this bullshit is being exported through corrupt politicians to 3rd world countries where people starve every day.

Fuck Monsanto and all their ilk and damn them to hell.

etc.

Re:Shame this happened (3, Insightful)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 7 months ago | (#46786303)

Yeah, fuck them for blocking important technological advances like insect resistant crops and lifesaving Golden Rice! And fuck them for suing farmers for unknowingly having their crops cross pollinated, even though that never actually happened. Oh wait...what are we angry about again? You know, before you start damning folks to hell (it wouldn't be the first time I've gotten that one), maybe you should check to see that you're not being lied to and emotionally manipulated by people out to advance their own social, political, and economic agendas.

And the fact that this bullshit is being exported through corrupt politicians to 3rd world countries where people starve every day.

Well, I agree with that, but I think we're talking about very different bullshits. I'm talking about the fact that, if the field of plant improvement had not been set back by 15 years by activists using Monsanto as a generic boogeyman, we'd be awash in all sorts of beneficial crop traits. Instead, publicly funded GE crops stopped with the extremely successful Rainbow papaya. Bangladesh is just now getting Bt eggplant, and its about time (and just wait, when it inevitability makes it to India, there's going to be a shitstorm among idiot activists who've never stepped food in either a farm or a lab). Golden Rice still has yet to be released. Something is very wrong here, and this time it isn't the big corporation.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

johanw (1001493) | about 7 months ago | (#46786323)

Preventing lifeforms to be patented would solve most of the problems. For me, it's not the GE plants themselves but the misuse of artificial scarcity (aka "intellectual property) laws to monopolize them.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 7 months ago | (#46786353)

For me, it's not the GE plants themselves but the misuse of artificial scarcity (aka "intellectual property) laws to monopolize them.

They're not monopolized though. That's not how patents work (that's like saying Sony has a monopoly on Playstations, it is kind of true, but a monopoly is controlling all of a thing, not all of a particular type of a thing), and anyway, don't like Monsanto, there's Syngenta, or Pioneer, or Bayer. A much more important problem is the over-regulation preventing publicly funded projects from being commercialized. Ending patents won't do much of benefit.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786699)

If all consoles become PlayStation when nearby a PlayStation then I would have a problem with Sony, whether Sony has a 'monopoly of the PlayStation' or not.

Monsanto goal is clear; have their 'intellectual property' spread though pollination and secure monopoly over all agriculture.

Ending the patent system is the solution to every contemporary economic problem. In the age of information, a patent system is like placing a toll fee to every street corner. Good luck getting anywhere.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46787141)

Preventing lifeforms to be patented would solve most of the problems.

Yep, sure would.

Because noone would bother to develop new plants when they can't even recover the cost of development....

Re:Shame this happened (1)

johanw (1001493) | about 7 months ago | (#46787513)

That's better than artificial monopolies. And if we as society feel such development usefull we can fund it with public money.

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46788563)

suing farmers for unknowingly having their crops cross pollinated, even though that never actually happened.

Citation needed please

Re:Shame this happened (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786833)

I have been giving my dna out without license or charge for years

Re:Shame this happened (1)

nomasteryoda (801608) | about 7 months ago | (#46787071)

River Song would insure none of my DNA was ever used... I was burned in a funeral canoe.

Re:Shame this happened (1)

RiboNuke (3621293) | about 7 months ago | (#46788557)

"Before the human genome project completed its first draft in 2000, Sulston had fought to keep the genome data freely accessible to researchers around the world. At the same time, Craig Venter was racing to sequence the human genome through his company, Celera, with the intention of charging researchers for access to the information. In 2000, the two sides brokered a deal through the mediation of the UK and US governments and the human genome was put in the public domain." ...That battle was fought already & was won in favor of open source 14 years ago. Now if Monsanto makes some glyphosate resistant humans we might have a conflict to be worried about... Quote from: http://www.theguardian.com/sci... [theguardian.com]

Safeguard the farmers? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46785799)

With seeds?

They should safeguard them from heat-seeking drones flown by malicious criminals.

Re:Safeguard the farmers? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 7 months ago | (#46785811)

With seeds?

They should safeguard them from heat-seeking drones flown by Monsanto.

Re:Safeguard the farmers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786061)

Same thing.

Re:Safeguard the farmers? (1)

johanw (1001493) | about 7 months ago | (#46786331)

Not the same thing. "Monsanto" is just a subgroup of the group "malicious criminals".

Re:Safeguard the farmers? (1)

Number42 (3443229) | about 7 months ago | (#46786347)

This. As a malicious criminal, I'd like to say that we're not all like them. People keep making broad generalizations after they've seen a vocal minority.

Re:Safeguard the farmers? (1)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 7 months ago | (#46785897)

What about heat seeking drones flown by the predator? For that I'd suggest they get to the choppa.

Just (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 7 months ago | (#46785819)

Just a sec, gotta recompile the kernel.

Re:Just (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46785845)

Oh, well played. That's priceless.

Re:Just (1, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#46785875)

Just don't forget to share it over Bittorrent.

Re:Just (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786035)

Just think of the advances beyond plant life. Forget downloading cars, you could end up downloading cats.

Re:Just (1)

BonThomme (239873) | about 7 months ago | (#46787211)

you'll need a CAT5 cable for that, though...

Re:Just (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786183)

plz seed!! tia!

Re:Just (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 7 months ago | (#46786605)

That's going to take awhile.

Re:Just (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786701)

Make sure when doing your calculations to round up; otherwise, you might end up with a lot of bugs.

Re:Just (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46787449)

./conifer

Re:Just (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | about 7 months ago | (#46788861)

Is that a GM (gentoo modified) hard kernel?

All of your DNA belongs to us (1)

Suiggy (1544213) | about 7 months ago | (#46785829)

Even the DNA of your plants and your own body. You are vassals of Lord Rothschild. This Universe belongs to the Chosen. Not you, goyim. Now get out of our Universe.

Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46785843)

Monsanto isn't going to like this....

Re:Uh oh (4, Informative)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about 7 months ago | (#46785881)

I really don't think Monsanto would care to be honest. Or more precisely, I'm not sure why they would care.

By that I mean, I'm trying to figure out what is special about the seed these guys are "open sourcing" and I'm really not sure what sets it apart. Good luck to them I guess, but I just don't see what would make somebody want their seed instead of any other seeds they can obtain. This strikes me as being like forking FreeBSD under the GPL license, not adding anything to it at all, and then asking the FreeBSD community to switch.

It's already known however that several farmers (at least 144 of them so far have been proven to) deliberately try to grow Monsanto seed without paying Monsanto for them.

Anyways, SCOTUS recently stated that Monsanto can't sue in cases of accidental planting of their patented seeds (Monsanto hasn't ever filed such a lawsuit against somebody who accidentally planted them, let alone won one; rather an organic group was trying to ask SCOTUS to forbid all Monsanto patent lawsuits; a request that SCOTUS denied saying that Monsanto's existing stance was both sufficient and binding.)

Re:Uh oh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786041)

Someone's gotta start the fire.

These seeds might be irrelevant, just like the GNU project was fairly irrelevant to the world the year it started. And even today, the mainstream media think of Linux rather than the collection of FSF software when they talk of the success of open source. But it all started with Stallman identifying a principle and working toward it.

Re:Uh oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786751)

But how are they different? If there is no difference between them and plenty of other freely available seeds, then they will stay irrelevant. The GNU project right away started out different with the ideas of free and open, except the vast majority of current seeds are already that way. This would be more like someone copying GNU projects centuries after it came out, and wondering why people consider it irrelevant to have a second, identical open source project.

Re:Uh oh (0)

will_die (586523) | about 7 months ago | (#46786069)

Why?
Because guy/company that is donating some of them have them marked are garbage variations that normally would of never seen the light of day outside of his lab?
I guess they would not like the free publicity that is going to that lab for the variations that are actually of value and that they will continue to sell the same way as Monsanto.

I'm unclear (0)

EzInKy (115248) | about 7 months ago | (#46785903)

How can a seed that has been released into nature not be open source? Seeds, by there very nature, seek to profilierate sot it would obviously take unnatural forces to prevent them from doing so. Certainly, at least, no human govenment would make it illegal to not prevent nature from taking it's course.

Re:I'm unclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786003)

Given enough bribes^H^H^H^H^H^Hincentives, any government will gladly legislate water to flow uphill and then blow shitloads of taxpayer money trying to make it so, laws of physics be damned.

Re:I'm unclear (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#46786081)

Yep. Seeds in general have a Public Domain (PD) license.

Re:I'm unclear (1)

Sique (173459) | about 7 months ago | (#46786275)

Actually, they don't. There have been situations where a seed company was collecting seeds of traditional crops, selecting the ones with the most marketable potential, patenting and reselling them again and suing the farmers they got the seed from originally from infringing the patent on the seeds and prevailing.

Curse the judges that handed down the verdict and the laws that allowed the company to prevail, but currently there is nothing that prevents a company from doing the same again and again.

Re:I'm unclear (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#46786569)

There have been situations where a seed company was collecting seeds of traditional crops, selecting the ones with the most marketable potential, patenting and reselling them again

That is allowed with Public Domain material.

PD license basically means that you throw the product to the wilderness and dogs might shred it into pieces. :)

Re:I'm unclear (1)

El Puerco Loco (31491) | about 7 months ago | (#46786107)

sure, but seeds of hybrid plants don't usually turn out anything like the parent plant. unless you know what cultivars were crossed to produce the original hybrid, you can't duplicate it. that's what is proprietary. you don't need a patent, as long as you're the only one who know which plants to cross, you're the only one who can produce that hybrid.

The wrong license (5, Interesting)

Alain Williams (2972) | about 7 months ago | (#46785949)

The license used is:

"It basically says these seeds are free to use in any way you want. They can't be legally protected. Enjoy them."

This is a GPL type license. There is nothing to stop Monsanto from going to a farmer who is using these seeds and saying:

Pollen from one of our products blew in last year and so these seeds now contain some of our genes, so you now owe us for using these seeds and can't give it away to anyone.

The only way to deal with Monsanto is to beat them at their own game. One way would be to develop a seed with some novel genes (call them NoGe) and copyright these under something like the GPL. Then grow these seeds upwind of a Monsanto development facility; when, later, Monsanto then sue someone for illegal use of their seeds a NoGe 'owner' could testify that the Monsanto seeds must be allowed free to everyone use due to the 'viral nature' of the GPL. That legal punch up would be interesting to watch!

Re:The wrong license (1)

will_die (586523) | about 7 months ago | (#46786053)

So you are going to start doing what people claim Monsanto is doing but that Monsanto has never done?
Good job at beating at them at their own game, except only you are playing that game.

Re:The wrong license (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46789071)

So you are going to start doing what people claim Monsanto is doing but that Monsanto has never done?

Good job at beating at them at their own game, except only you are playing that game.

Citation Needed please

Re:The wrong license (1)

ortholattice (175065) | about 7 months ago | (#46786553)

You are confusing copyright with patents. TFA is about "patent-free" seeds, not GPL copyrighted seeds (if there even is such a thing).

Re:The wrong license (1)

jthill (303417) | about 7 months ago | (#46788859)

I don't think anything prevents anyone from offering a GPL-style patent license: you're free to use at no further charge however you like, excepting only that if you incorporate it into anything and offer it to others, you must also offer exactly this license.

Re:The wrong license (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46788155)

There is nothing to stop Monsanto from going to a farmer who is using these seeds and saying: Pollen from one of our products blew in last year and so these seeds now contain some of our genes, so you now owe us for using these seeds and can't give it away to anyone.

Nothing other than that case where SCOTUS said they can't do that...

Missing a rather large point (5, Interesting)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 7 months ago | (#46786013)

One thing that's sort of buried in the article is this movement is also anti-hybrid, which is not all that surprising. But hybrids offer a definite, measurable benefit to the farmer - not only are they more uniform (important for commercial harvesting), they are invariably more vigorous than open pollinated varieties. Greater vigor per plant means greater profit per plant.

As a gardener I understand and applaud attempts to develop and improve open pollinated varieties of vegetables and fruits. It's fun to save your own seeds, and OPs have more diverse genes - so they are important to the continued existence of plant species. But it's going to be an uphill battle trying to convince farmers to give up hybrids, if that's really the movement's goal. And I don't think it's really what they should be focussing on. But plant purists can be every bit as inflexible as the most ardent GPL zealot, so I expect philosophy will win out over practicality.

Re:Missing a rather large point (2)

wrook (134116) | about 7 months ago | (#46786139)

I can see this working very similarly to the free software movement. As you correctly point out, there are already plenty of gardeners who are passionate about seed sharing. The internet allowed free software to be an efficient method of software development and distribution. 30 years on, it has even reached mainstream development. Just look at the percentage of teams using free software development tools (especially in web development).

In the past, it was difficult for an individual (dare I say hobbyist) to develop a useful new variety of plant. You need a lot of time, effort and especially land. But what if you can coordinate with other hobbyists over the internet? What if you all agreed that you would share seed? What if you all agreed that nobody could restrict the future use of these seeds. Now you have many hands, and many small plots of land, and many different growing environments, pollen, etc. Suddenly it scales.

What is needed is coordination and trust. The GPL created a level playing field that allowed people to trust each other when collaborating in software development. I'm not sure, but having a similar agreement for seed development does not sound like a bad idea to me.

Re:Missing a rather large point (1)

Shimbo (100005) | about 7 months ago | (#46786189)

What if you all agreed that nobody could restrict the future use of these seeds.

Then the seed companies would lobby for laws to make sharing seeds illegal. If you think that is being paranoid: it's already happened. http://permaculturenews.org/20... [permaculturenews.org] (it didn't pass - that time).

Re:Missing a rather large point (1)

careysub (976506) | about 7 months ago | (#46787435)

The EU law (not passed) referenced in the article you link to is a good example of IP rent-seeking, corporations trying to suppress competition to their patented products by writing laws and getting legislators to pass them.

The best way to get the gist of the proposed EU law, is to read the FAQ [europa.eu] the law proponents wrote to defend it. Critics hardly need to add much to the "defense" to show how damning it is.

Basically it states that no commercial operation (unless small enough to be a "micro-enterprise") can sell any seed that is not "registered" under the law, which costs something like 3000 Euros per seed variety to do. Wild seed, natural seed, heirloom varieties, newly bred or selected varieties by seed savers - all banned from sale unless "registered".

Of course it claims this is a Very Good Thing and amazingly claims that it will "grant more responsibility and flexibility to businesses dealing in plant reproductive material" and will "cut red tape and costs by making the rules more flexible and efficient across the EU".

Re:Missing a rather large point (1)

dbc (135354) | about 7 months ago | (#46787565)

Well,not quite. It is anti-unstabalized-hybrid. In many cases, a single additional cross will stablize a hybrid. Seed companies don't, because it serves as built-in license enforcement. The reason Monsanto has so much trouble with soy beans is that there is no such thing as an unstable hybrid soy bean. With maize, OTOH, this works great, you can create an unstable hybrid and sell that as the seed companies do now, or with a single additonal cross, stabilize the hybrid.

Re:Missing a rather large point (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 7 months ago | (#46788781)

A truly "stabilized" hybrid is usually considered open pollinated - no longer a hybrid. The loss of hybrid vigor is a recognized byproduct of stabilization.

However, as you allude to, for many varieties of legume the flowers self-pollinate. With soybeans and snap beans in particular, the flowers pollinate themselves before they're even open - which incidentally makes it much more difficult to develop new varieties (whether the goal is a hybrid or the development of a new OP). Species like that have developed their own methods of dealing with the problems that usually come with in-breeding. I'd guess (but do not know) that those genetic coping strategies might also help counter the usual loss of vigor that would normally be observed as the generations progress.

Good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786037)

Why do you think the Monsanto Protection Act came to be? Because U.S gov understands what a powerful weapon Monsanto can be, when it will be allowed to dictate the production, distribution and consumption of food, not just in the U.S, but in the whole world in the long term.

We have had OSS (Open Source Seeds) for years. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 months ago | (#46786449)

IT's called Heriloom and all of them are not patent encumbered.
Eliminate any and all patents and copyrights on living things is the only answer, Devices that were common on farms, seed cleaners, are illegal because of Monsanto, they target farmers that have them, they go after ANY farmer that does not buy their product, because their GM garbage will cross pollinate to your field and suddenly your GM free crops are now tainted with Monsanto IP and now the property of Monsanto.

Eliminate the patent possibility and it neuters Monsanto completely and solves every single problem.

Re:We have had OSS (Open Source Seeds) for years. (-1)

will_die (586523) | about 7 months ago | (#46786541)

Please show a single instance where Monsanto has gone after a seed cleaner who has not specificlly targeted non-monsanto to be removed; meaning they were cleaning to ensure they got round-up resistant seed.
You really need to educate yourself on this topic, the idiot sites that are you telling you that monsanto is going after "ANY farmer that does not buy their product" or everything is "now the property of Monsanto" or making seed cleaner illegal are just lieing to you.

100% preventable starvation # 1 killer worldwide (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786455)

WMD of starvation (1000s of innocent children etc... every day) must be our worst offense against ourselves our spirits & our own creation momkind etc....? so what is the #2 way to end our toil?

The strains should imply viral open source license (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786471)

The releases should be patented like monsanto with an open license that ensures that if their genetics recombine with anything else it bears the license as well. It should be planted around all monsanto fields, so we slowly chip away at the insanity of proprietary food genetics.

Done that way in Brazil since the 1800s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46786725)

The brazilian government has a R&D branch dedicated to creating new crops and related techniques and chemicals, it is called Embrapa. There are also other R&D centers with government majority (like IAC). All the resulting stuff is properly patented... but free for use (not necessarily free for *comecialization*, but most often it is not only entirely free, they also spend money making sure the stuff actually gets pushed to farmers). Once you have it, you have it, you can distribute seeds, etc. In fact, you're encouraged to do it.

It is utterly insane and absurd that anything that is not military technology and was paid in the majority by the government is not open and free for use, distribution and modification (subject to a few regulation laws so that you don't do deranged crap that ends up killing good crops nation-wide).

Let's look at the bigger problem... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46787125)

... which is the idea that a particular person or company can "own" a seed that occurs in nature and has been used in human agriculture since the dawn of civilization.

What really needs to happen is the retroactive application of GPL-like rules to all natural seed. If you start with GPL seed and use it to make your own derivative seed, you must release your new seed under the same license so that anyone can use it.

Seed Savers Exchange? (3, Interesting)

careysub (976506) | about 7 months ago | (#46787227)

Except for the EULA printed on their packets this is very similar to what the very well established Seed Savers Exchange [seedsavers.org] has been doing for decades.

For reference the actual operative text of the EULA is:

"By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives you will acknowledge the source of these seeds and accompany your transfer with this pledge."

It is the actual work of the seed savers group - saving, reproducing, distributing seed - that is preserving these varieties for future generations. Imposing this transfer clause seems to make these OSSI varieties less likely to be redistributed, so it may actually have a negative effect on their propagation. I don't see that having someone taking an heirloom variety and developing a patented variety from it is impeding seed saving and exchanging.

Heirloom varieties are under threat - the number of them in circulation is dropping, and strains are being lost since they do need to be periodically "grown out" to preserve the seed stock. But it is not being caused by heirloom varieties being patented - it is because commercially produced seed is being used by most gardeners for very real conveniences they provide.

Open source shovels and hoes (1)

Willuz (1246698) | about 7 months ago | (#46787735)

They should also offer open source shovels and hoes for the farmers. After all, those tractors and harvesters are all patented by evil corporations. The farmers should go back to using hand tools so that we're not permanently addicted to high efficiency farm tools.

Seriously though, the patented seeds are all developed at great expense to have special properties and resistances. If the farmers don't want to deal with the licenses there are plenty of seeds for them that aren't roundup resistant. The picture in the article says all you need to know, They're sending envelopes of seeds that obviously aren't enough for a real farm. This is just a publicity stunt and more feel good pointless crap to make liberals feel like they're saving the world without leaving their own back yard.

Re:Open source shovels and hoes (2)

whistlingtony (691548) | about 7 months ago | (#46788635)

Hey, your snark totally helps us feed the world. Thanks.

I'm guessing you don't know squat about this. Yes, those seeds are developed to oh say, be resistant to Roundup herbacide. Funnily enough after a few generations of insects, so are the insects, and now the farmers are stuck with expensive patented seeds AND a giant herbacide bill, AND it doesn't work anyway because the insects evolved.

It's a real problem. Liberals DO care about it, because we're fucking smarter than you are, and we care more about the world and each other. :D

P.S. Farmers can be liberals too. These days, Liberal is just a word for someone who gives a shit and wants to fix it.

Re:Open source shovels and hoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46789111)

because we're fucking smarter than you are

Citation needed please

Uhm... Heirloom seeds? (2)

whistlingtony (691548) | about 7 months ago | (#46788611)

We already have Heirloom seeds. We already have a lot of people dedicated to preserving heirloom seeds. I get what they're trying to do, but naturally occuring expressions shouldn't be patentable anyway. If they're tweaking the seeds and THEN open sourcing them, well, good on them. But they're just breeding them... I'm annoyed this needs to be done, but glad they're doing it.

Frankly, seeds should be harvested from a region, and kept in a region. Let evolution do the work of keeping them healthy in a particular environment.

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