Genetically Modified (GM) Food

Picciotto, Sol s.picciotto at
Tue Mar 2 11:21:38 PST 1999

Thanks to Chuck Grimes for the scientific input, which I will have to ponder, as I found it about as hard to get my head around as he did my comments on the law.

The comments below I find more confusing. PHR may have better information than I do about company practices, but as far as I know computer software is now protected almost everywhere by copyright and not patent law - which is actually much stronger.

I do know that companies try to write their patent specifications as broadly as possible, but this can lay them open to legal challenge from competitors if they try to protect the basic science and not the specific innovation. Can you give specific examples? The international system is now fairly complex, since a patent can be held valid in one country but invalid in another. Monsanto has run into this problem I believe.

My basic point was that intellectual property rights give legal monopoly protection , but economic monopoly can exist anyway and is harder to combat. I was trying to wind Doug up - in fact you could say that legal protection in some contexts helps the little guy who doesnt have a strong economic monopoly. This may apply to copyright, which is automatic, but not patents, as the process of registering and defending patents is so costly.



> -----Original Message-----
> From: Paul Henry Rosenberg [SMTP:rad at]
> Sent: Monday, March 01, 1999 8:40 PM
> To: lbo-talk at
> Subject: Re: Genetically Modified (GM) Food
> Picciotto, Sol wrote:
> > Just a couple of comments on the IPR (intellectual
> > property rights) aspects. Though I'm generally sympathetic
> > to the arguments of those wanting to try to restrict Monsanto
> > from subjecting science to profits, I'm not sure that blocking
> > patent protection would help. A requirement of patent protection
> > is publication of the specification, so at least it becomes
> > public knowledge - the alternative is commercial confidentiality.
> > I suspect that Monsanto has a lot more up its scientific sleeve
> > than it has publicised.
> I'm afraid your understanding is woefully out of date -- and Monsanto &
> friends like it that way, just fine!
> What's happening now is that companies are getting patents to ANY AND
> ALL transgenic soybeans, for example, based on JUST ONE genetic
> modification use JUST ONE technique.
> The result is that their "property rights" now cover anything that might
> result for the incredibly vast and varied sum of common knowledge in the
> field, which used to be completely untouchable by patents.
> In the field of software, companies have asserted broad patents that
> have then been used to claim infringement from ANYONE doing business
> over the internet. Specific algorithms are being patented. It's now
> effectively impossible for programs of too large a scale to be written
> without cross-liscensing agreeements. I could go on and on. (If the
> first word processor had been written under current patent law practice,
> NO ONE could write another word processer in any language on any
> platform. Wang would rule the world. And all the
> word-processor-specific algorithms [searching, for instance] that are
> used in spreadsheets, databases, etc. would ALSO be owned by Wang.)
> The point is this: the new (rapidly deteriorating) rules are so
> different that all your old-fashioned ways of assessing trade-offs no
> longer apply. They must ALL be carefully re-examined against what's
> actually happening in the real world, not what's been accepted arguments
> over the past 200 years.
> --
> Paul Rosenberg
> Reason and Democracy
> rad at
> "Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"

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