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Topics - Carol Deppe

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Plant Breeding / legal status of many varieties investigated
« on: 2019-01-14, 01:13:25 PM »
It is increasingly the case that many retail seed companies are signing licenses and bag-tag agreements THAT SIGN AWAY THEIR CUSTOMER'S SEED RIGHTS without telling the customers. This potential loss in seed rights actually affects far more varieties than those that have PVPs or patents. It can even affect op and heirloom varieties that the wholesale supplier had nothing to do with developing. So, for example, if you buy Chiogga beet, an heirloom, the retail seed company may have signed a license with their supplier that no seed saving or breeding is allowed with the seed. It is a new mode and level of seizing of our rights that is for the moment being largely kept secret from retail seed customers. CR Lawn, founder and leader of Fedco up until 2018, became aware of the problem. His paper outlining the problem, CR’s article “SEED SOVEREIGNTY: Taking Back the Seed Commons” is in the 2019 Jan/Seed issue of Acres/USA. It’s on newsstands now.
This article describes the problem in detail. In addition, there are lists in the back that list all the wholesale suppliers Fedco uses and what restrictions they are putting on their seed. In addition, there is also a list of all varieties Fedco carried as of 2017 that have ip of any sort on them, including these invisible licenses and bag tags Fedco signs, the supplier, and the exact restrictions. CR put this info in the variety descriptions for the 2017 Fedco catalog, but he retired in spring of 2018, and those at Fedco dropped the info out of the descriptions, restoring the invisible seizing of seed rights that they felt uncomfortable pointing out. (No no other seed companies are pointing out these invisible restrictions. An nearly all large retail seed companies use these big suppliers and are accepting such licenses and bagtags.)

If you get the Acres/USA Jan issue, you will have a list of all restrictions on all Fedco varieties that had restrictions, and the exact rights restricted for each. In addition, if you have the 2017 Fedco catalog, you have an additional list of many hundreds of varieties that have no restrictions, since they weren't on the restricted list. (The same doesn't apply to later catalogs, since Fedco's new listings would not have been investigated by CR.)

Here's a specific example. Let's suppose that you bought Chiogga beet, an heirloom variety, from Fedco or someone else. Does it have IP on it? So, looking it up in CR's article, I find that Fedco bought it from Sakata, and that the seed came with a bag-tag agreement that limits the user to growing a single crop only. No seed saving or breeding is permitted. Furthermore, Sakata claims that this bag-tag binds all third party users, that is, Fedco customers.

What it amounts to is these major suppliers put the same bag-tag or licenses on all the seed they supply, whether they bred it or not. So Sakata has actually put IP on their part of the seed stream of Chiogga beet.

What about buying it from somewhere else? Well, there's actually a good chance that many/most of the other retail seed companies are also buying Chiogga from Sakata and are accepting the same bag-tag agreements. So going elsewhere for Chiogga doesn't solve the problem necessarily.

It is legal to put a bag-tag agreement on any seed you distribute. It doesn't affect seed of the variety distributed independently. Only the seed obtained with that bag-tag. So small seed companies that grow their own Chiogga from seed they got before these bag-tags would still have IP-free Chiogga. But a small seed company that bought bulk from Fedco for repacking might unknowingly be distributing restricted seed.

I personally think that the binding of third party users is not legal unless they know about it and have agreed to it. Bag-tags and licenses fall under contract law. With contract law, you aren't bound by it unless you know about it and have agreed. PVPs and patents, on the other hand, are laws, and you are bound by laws whether you know about them or not. So Sakata and others may be saying their bag-tags and licenses bind third parties, but I don't think they. However, this would not necessarily do you a lot of good if Sakata sued you. There is the tendency with the guys with the most money and biggest legal department to win.

I think the biggest danger is that these restrictions are secret. Seed companies are not telling us they are signing stuff that say that the varieties are one-time-use rentals instead of real sales. Right not these big suppliers are not insisting that the retail seed companies tell us about the restrictions. But if retail companies continue buying from these suppliers and accepting these terms, we can figure at some point the wholesalers will suddenly start enforcing all these restrictions. That is, after their retail seed company customers are so dependent on them that there is no other practical source for the varieties. (Even for an heirloom, it's not easy to find a supplier who supplies it in the huge amounts needed at good quality year after year.)

What I would like to see is every retail seed company doing what Fedco did in 2017--telling us exactly what rights we are and aren't buying in the description of every variety. It actually just takes a code number. And one-time paying attention to the bag-tags and licenses and identifying each variety by code.

It is my hope that if customers knew they were only buying the rental of the use of the seed for one year, they would scream loudly enough so that the retail seed company would have some incentive to negotiate those restrictions out of the stuff they sign or find different suppliers.

Here's an OSSI-sponsored Podcast interview with Don Tipping on his breeding of Popeye Spinach.

Breeding Hyper Red Rumpled Waved Lettuce (Frank Morton). Podcast. This OSSI-Sponsored plant breeding podcast focuses on this particular lettuce, but also covers how the lettuce plants walked Frank into becoming a plant breeder and taught him how to do it. He actually learned from the plants themselves rather from courses or books. Here's the link:

OSSI pledged varieties / Breeding Goldini Zucchini Podcast
« on: 2018-12-03, 11:06:15 PM »
Breeding Goldini Zucchini (interview with Carol Deppe). Podcast. OSSI has sponsored a series of podcasts on plant breeding. Each podcast features a particular OSSI-Pledged variety and a 35 - 45 minute interview with the breeder on how she/he bred the variety. The interviewer, Rachel Hultengren, herself has a degree in plant breeding, and is really first rate. This interview with me on Goldini was the first. Here's the link:

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