Enjoy what may be your last royalty-free Christmas dinner...
December 24, 2000 11:23 AM   Subscribe

Enjoy what may be your last royalty-free Christmas dinner... Opinion solicitation: is either extreme right here? Is there a compromise solution that will satisfy both sides? Where do the rest of us (i.e., the food consumers) fit in to this?
posted by rushmc (5 comments total)
Just as the colonials of the first era went and took spices, dyes and precious stones and metals as the "commercial" booty of their explorations, so the modern-day colonials take the traditional crops and horticultural knowledge of the poorer world and patent it.

Think global, act local. Buy local. Go to farmers' markets. Don't buy multinational cash crops when there's a fair-trade alternative. Get your fingers dirty, metaphorically and literally. Grow these seeds in your back garden and see if the fuckers come at you with a patent suit then.

Honestly, people get het up about the right to bear arms, when there's more at stake over the right to grow rice.
posted by holgate at 2:02 PM on December 24, 2000

Trust Australia to be on the wrong side of this, as usual a running dog of US policy.
posted by lagado at 3:18 PM on December 24, 2000

Shouldn't there be a place for some sort of ownership-in-common for certain things we all share? I thought the point about farmers having done centuries of genetic engineering the slow, hard way very telling. Where will their compensation come from?

Of course, the question of genetic patent and ownership goes beyond crop genomes. What does the future hold when all manner of human genes are legally protected?

I haven't quite made up my mind how I feel about these issues yet, but it does seem to me that there are some things which we all must share an equal right to use as we see fit. Bad intellectual property laws are a terrible nuisance when applied to things like entertainment, etc., and worse when applied to drugs, but I have a feeling it will enter a whole other realm when they try to apply it to genetic material.
posted by rushmc at 6:34 PM on December 24, 2000

Just out of curiousity - anyone here actually farm? Own land, raise crops, that sort of thing? The economic pressures we face to maximize yields are fabulous. And looking at the bill I got this very week, taxes on the family farmstead went up again. When the professional activists start to agitate for lower taxes with the same fervant heat they bring to the GM issue, I'll take them seriously.

But I have the idea that many of the Activist-American community are aggravated by the idea of land ownership in the first place. We're just kulaks.
posted by lileks at 9:48 PM on December 24, 2000

lileks: my family's long been a beneficiary of the post-war Allotments Act. And for sure, it's a part-time pursuit rather than a full-time occupation, but it was my introduction, at a wee small age, to the fact that you need to work to make things grow, not just nip to the shops. (And my brother in law's family farm land in the Lakes, so I've seen that at close hand.)

So, there are plenty of agricultural policies I'd support: big tax breaks for farmers who choose to shift to quality rather than have to obey the diktats of the bulk retailers: offset the cost of going organic, of bringing in quality breeds, of switching from BGH-stuffed milk to unpasteurised cheese. (Rebecca's link to the decline of the Red Delicious, posted a few weeks ago, still seems relevant.) Exemptions on inheritance duty for working farm properties. Support for local abbatoirs, markets, producers.

Most activists (in Britain, at least) don't complain about paying extra to be assured that the food they eat is well-farmed, of high quality, and that the farmer receives a greater share of the cost than the supermarket chains, with their buying power and their markups.

(And yeah, I know these policies are more relevant to the UK, where holdings are tiny in comparison with the US, and where there's less of a distinction between farms and centres of population, but there's still scope.)

The GM issue fires up activists because it disempowers farmers, especially in areas where they gather seed for next year's sowing. It even disempowers American farmers right now, since growers of maize and soy (GM or not) have their export markets severely restricted: this is because, in many cases, GM crop is added to a non-GM yield for bulk export.

These are my politics, then, right back to John Locke, who said that each man's property begins with a sense of self, and grows through the efforts made with his own person. Which is why I'm happy to line up behind Naomi Klein and say, corporations are not persons.
posted by holgate at 6:00 AM on December 25, 2000

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