I have a copyrighted mini rose that says 'asexual reproduction of this rose is illegal' and I have never in my life wanted to asexually propagate a plant more than I do now
Not to knock on the investment plant breeders make, but I get irritated because cloning happens so naturally: perennials spread laterally and can be divided, the low branches of trees and shrubs naturally layer when they touch the soil… even the process of learning a skill like grafting at home involves swapping limbs on trees.
Although home gardeners are rarely prosecuted for handing out clones of proprietary plants to friends and neighbours, the possibility still exists, and that is what irks me. You buy a plant, which is an investment that should be the “means of production” in a sense, but the patent prevents you, the consumer, from innovating with that product: it’s absolutely bonkers to treat biological life like software.
At least in the case of plant bred through conventional means, you can harvest seeds. I have a “Circe” Redlove apple tree, which was bred by Lubera – a Swiss firm – in the 2010s. I can’t legally hand out scion wood for grafting from that particular plant for the next 17 years or so, under EU copyright law, but I can harvest and plant seeds. If this were a GM apple, like the ‘Arctic Apple,’ the RNA interference (RNAi) process would be covered under the patent (the resultant “events” are patented), so to the best of my knowledge, seeds would also be covered under the licensing agreements. I have a serious problem with extending plant patent rights to the progeny or lineage of a plant: harvesting and planting seeds should be a human right, because anthropochory is something we can do when we get seeds stuck in our hair, throw away an apple core, or take a shit.
When I sell plants, I’m selling the number of hours I worked to make that plant, not an idea. I appreciate that in order to recoup a significant investment in breeding, the first round of sales needs to go at a premium, but beyond that, excessive intellectual property (IP) regulations stifle science and innovation. I hear all this stuff about how GM crops will be the future of humanity, but if the firms involved meant it, these plants would be rolling out with something like a ‘creative commons’ license three years after debut (Golden Rice is one of the good ones for that reason: they have some sort of humanitarian license). If I ever bred an exceptional fruit tree with all my backyard tree planting efforts, I’d want anyone and everyone to plant that shit everywhere.
I have a ‘Doctorowian’ view on intellectual property: I’m generally pro-pirating and pro-remixing, etc. This extends to plant breeding and biotech: I dislike the sort of monopoly politics that allows corporations to be sheltered from truly free markets by State intervention (via copyright law). If you can’t recoup your investment in 20 years or less, you aren’t competitive. Make a fricking kickstarter like the rest of us plebs and get your money upfront.
If I’m starting to sound like an AnCap, well, you know why.