Thursday, February 10, 2005

smack my farmer up

While we are on the subject of mercenaries:

Resource Insights has been tracking the unbenevolent actions of Monsanto. Something quite curious is brought to our attention:

A seed that is a mule.

When Monsanto announced that it was ready to release so-called "terminator" seeds, that is, seeds that grow crops which are sterile and therefore cannot reproduce, the public outcry was so great that it put its plans on hold.

Now, if you don't know GM crops from a bag of chips, what Monsanto is doing might seem inscrutable. You might even think, why would they bother?

Licensing. It is a software trick; it is a paradigm shifted from the world of intellectual property. First, convince farmers that, because this wheat glows and has flavor crystals, it is better than that stank old seed pappy used in the last century. Sell them a one year license to grow wheat. And next year? Sell it to them again. And next year? Sell it to them again. It is a grab for money and control.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'll be focusing more on these issues, because predatory practices like this hurt small scale family farms. Especially when their new "magic seeds" turn out to be worse than advertised - and worse than what they replaced. It is marketing, more so than say, science.

We are going to need every farmer we have, and then some, during the post peak years. We need to spend some personal energy helping them out.


At 3:14 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger James Moe said...

Coincidentally, today there was a Slashdot article regarding "open source" GM crops. An organization called the Biological Innovation for Open Society (BIOS) allows anyone to use their GM methods as long as improvements are shared with everyone else. Kind of a GM-GPL. The BIOS site has links to their recently published Nature paper and a summary describing their GM methods and licensing scheme.

Happily, most scientists aren't mercenaries. At least not yet anyway. I'll readily agree that Monsanto as a corporate entity is pretty weasely. If I were a scientist, ethical considerations would likely prevent me from working for such a company. It's clear that at least some scientists feel the same way. It remains to be seen if organizations like BIOS can act as a check against the repugnant strategies used by entities such as Monsanto.

At 10:29 PM, February 10, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

As far as what percentage of scientists might be mercenaries, it almost is beside the point. I just think it is kind of a deep insight into our whole system.

Consider the following scenario:
Scientist works for Monsanto
Makes Important breakthrough.
Monsanto owns the patent.
Scientist later quits over ethical concerns
Monsanto nonetheless uses the patent for nefarious purpose.

Fruits of science /trained scientists as a commodity.


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