Author Topic: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing  (Read 633 times)

William S.

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Great Northern Beans are a historic variety from the three tribes of the upper Missouri river. Probably introduced by the Oscar H. Will seed company.

I saw an source for them yesterday at least in Canada but which might ship to the U.S. https://prseeds.ca/seed_categories/beans/dry-beans/

The thing is, at least by name they are everywhere as eating beans both dry and canned. So not very many actual seed sources like the one above.

So a frugal gardener like myself realizing that dry beans will sprout and that seed packets are expensive may have already squirreled away a package of said beans for perhaps later growing.

Just suppose though that the bean name on the food bags isnt the actual variety in them? What if it is a marketing ploy instead? What if the beans in the actual bag are a more productive proprietary modern replacement plant patent number xyz?

Now I've imagined this scenario and it raises a lot of questions about foods labeled and not labeled as to specific varieties. 

Another scenario is a 14 bean mix. Thrifty gardener realizes that he/she has to try a lot of bean varieties to find a really good one. At say $5 a packet that blows a bit of a hole in our intrepid gardeners budget. Said gardener similarly realizes that they can grow dry beans.

This could be anything from the bulk bins etc.

So you grow something from a source perhaps a bit unwittingly, perhaps a bit willfully. Then you use that seed ultimately in a breeding project or maybe just add it to angrex. You pass that grex on and someone else makes a selection from it.

Anothe possibility is you take a trip to a third world country and trade seeds with the indigenous farmers there. You declare these seeds and legally import them. You grow them at your seed company and sell them. Someone uses them to develop a new open source variety.

Eventually somewhere down the line someone has spent a lot of time and energy developing something and big agrochemical multinational firm runs what to them is a routine dna test. Firms legal department sends you a certified letter. Letter informs you that you are a thief and to knock it off, pay them back, that their lawyers will be by soon with shovels to remove the top 18 inches of topsoil that is now rightfully theirs etc.

So what is the intrepid gardener to do? Perhaps he/she should go through their seed stash and just eat anything that they remember getting from the grocery? How about the fellow who doesnt know about the original source of seeds and finds out later after spending much time on a breeding project? Should they quit breeding? Put that project in the deep freeze for a few years until the seed is legal again?

Another big question here is who and where to source germ plasm from.
« Last Edit: 2018-12-17, 09:04:50 AM by William S. »
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William S.

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #1 on: 2018-12-17, 09:23:02 AM »
So let's say I want to pledge my grex of Fava Beans to the OSSI as breeding material.

It started with a packet of "Early Windsor" from Garden City Seeds or its successor Irish Eyes Garden Seeds. I planted these faithfully in May each year and never got much back but I kept saving the seeds hoping to someday get enough to gee maybe actually eat? It's days to maturity were much much shorter than anything from Territorial seed.

In 2017 I learned several new to me facts about favas. They outcross at a high rate, and they can and should be planted in March. I also got a package of Windsor favas from my mom who thought I should perhaps try growing favas. A package of Iantos Return, Frog Island Nation, and a package of Loft house Landrace favas.

Ianto Evans got his favas from small farmers in South America. Joseph got his from multiple sources including seed swaps, Joseph mentioned once that he included the Iantos return mix in his. Joseph has also mentioned online that he has the same habit I do of occasionally growing grocery store seeds.

So let's say my population of Favas is pretty nicely variable and at the end of 2019 I have a nice amount of it and I want to share it. So I pledge it to OSSI and list it for sale for $5 a packet on my website acknowledging all sources and named varieties as far back as I am aware- rewriting what I just wrote.

I know however that this new grex is a grex of a grex of a grex. It has outcrossed at this point for three generations in my garden. What are the odds that I get a cease and desist letter from big ag?

I feel fairly safe with Fava beans because I don't think big ag has as much of a stake in them- but even here I feel like more research is needed perhaps before I list them with OSSI and offer them to other breeders or to gardeners who just want a nicely variable fava population. Because maybe big ag does grow huge fields of highly patent controlled favas and I am just blissfully anaware of this? I also feel like the high out crossing rate of favas and lack of gmo varieties is a protection in itself. The grex should not contain any uncrossed material after three generations in my garden plus Josephs garden and Iantos garden etc. So a patented variety from South America say should be highly changed at this point.

However a similar grex of say field peas might have original unchanged varieties in it from an original source. The young conventional farmer who rents my grandad farm tried to grow field peas a couple years ago. He entered into a contract to grow a highly specific highly controlled proprietary variety of peas with a guaranteed sale's contract for whatever he could produce. They didn't do great for him, but those peas were definitely big business peas. I could see getting a cease and desist order for those peas (on an unexpired patent).

« Last Edit: 2018-12-17, 09:38:13 AM by William S. »
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Diane Whitehead

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #2 on: 2018-12-17, 02:34:36 PM »
I sow broad beans (favas) in October or November, so they are nicely up and growing now.

I guess the safest way to do vegetable breeding is to choose "minor crops" that the big guys don't grow.  So - no corn, soy beans or wheat.
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
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Carol Deppe

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #3 on: 2018-12-21, 06:21:36 PM »
Naw, you don't have to limit yourself to minor crops to develop OSSI-Pledgeable stuff. However, if you are working with major crops where there are lots of patents, it's problematic to start with unidentified material. To be on the safe side, you need to know the parents. Most hybrids except GMOs are not patented; the breeder usually relies on the hybrid for proprietary protection, not on patents or legalisms.

Carol Deppe

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #4 on: 2018-12-21, 06:29:01 PM »
So let's say I want to pledge my grex of Fava Beans to the OSSI as breeding material.

I know however that this new grex is a grex of a grex of a grex. It has outcrossed at this point for three generations in my garden. What are the odds that I get a cease and desist letter from big ag?


I would think the odds of getting a cease and desist letter from big ag would be vanishingly small with a grex of favas. First, because there are probably not many patents on favas. Also, it's a grex, and big ag has very little interest in anything that's not a pure variety. I'd also guess that you'd be pretty safe with a new pea too. It's corn, soybeans, and cotton that are the big ag's big interests. A pea would most likely be protected with a PVP, not a patent, and you can legally breed from something with a PVP. But you really should record everything that goes into a grex or a new variety if you are breeding with it these days.

Joseph Lofthouse

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #5 on: 2018-12-21, 10:28:37 PM »
An alternative to recording everything, may be to keep no records at all: Purchase seed stock only with cash, and only in venues that don't keep records. Discard variety names as soon as they arrive. Grow everything as a grex/landrace, and encourage promiscuous pollination. As a security measure, you could adopt a standard operating procedure of burning any seeds that have a patent number on the packaging. (Just beware that some patent numbers might be for the glue used in the envelope.)

On my farm, I have adopted a no-records-at-all policy. I did that primarily as an over-reaction to my former life as a research scientist. I generated many file cabinets full of records per year in my work as a chemist. Then when I started plant breeding, used those same types of protocols. And I hated it. These days, I do plant breeding as an artist instead of a scientist. It's nice to finally be working in my native mode as an artist, instead of in the mold that society brainwashed me into when I was young. I love, love, love being a carefree artist.

« Last Edit: 2018-12-22, 01:12:32 AM by Joseph Lofthouse »

Nicholas Locke

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #6 on: 2018-12-22, 12:27:19 PM »


On my farm, I have adopted a no-records-at-all policy. I did that primarily as an over-reaction to my former life as a research scientist. I generated many file cabinets full of records per year in my work as a chemist. Then when I started plant breeding, used those same types of protocols. And I hated it. These days, I do plant breeding as an artist instead of a scientist. It's nice to finally be working in my native mode as an artist, instead of in the mold that society brainwashed me into when I was young. I love, love, love being a carefree artist.

I Love it!!!
"Maybe" said the farmer...

Carol Deppe

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #7 on: 2018-12-22, 08:12:49 PM »
Plant breeding is an art, a craft, and a science. Which component is most emphasized depends on the plant breeder as well as the individual project. When we breed vegetables, the goal is often more delicious or more beautiful varieties, or ones that lend themselves to particular styles of cooking. Taste, visual beauty, and cooking are themselves art. So plant breeding is an art/craft/science aimed at producing art.

Most applied sciences are as much or more art than science. When you are the one in charge of designing the project, you are the one who decides how much needs to be recorded. If you choose too little to get what you need, next time you record more. If you are working for someone else and getting paid to do it the way they want, you're stuck with their requirements. That can be no fun. I suspect that most people attracted to plant breeding are an unusually unruly lot, and simply don't make very good peons docile doobies subordinates.

 Most gardeners start out not even recording what varieties they trialled. Or how they performed. After a few years of doing trials that were a total waste, they start recording more.

Scientists commonly do the opposite. Start off garden recording as much as if they were going to have to publish a research paper. Then realize, with great joy, that they dont have to do that any more. They can cut way back and record much less. I play the guitar and am learning harmonica. I dont read music or plan to learn. I'm having fun bumbling around. However, my plant breeding costs me land and labor, and I am way more serious about it than my music. There's room for many attitudes and approaches, however, in plant breeding as well as music.

When it comes to developing varieties useful to others, the more they know about the variety the more likely people are to try it.

When it comes to an OSSI-Pedged variety, a very well characterized variety with a complete breeding history is potentially much more valuable than an ill-characterized one. For example, suppose you have developed an OSSI-Pledged variety that is resistant to some disease that beans normally are sensitive to. Then some gene giant does a utility patent on the trait of resistance to that disease. That would make your own use of your variety and everyone elses breeding work on that trait illegal. But OSSI could use your Pledged resistant variety to challenge that patent. But not if you didnt know the parents. In that case the Gene Giant could just say you must have bred from some of their material. And not if you never mentioned the trait of resistance to that disease in your official variety description.

But the value of most Pledged varieties will come from the usefulness they have to produce food, not in legal issues. Whether people grow them or use them to develop other useful varieties.
« Last Edit: 2018-12-22, 08:59:40 PM by Carol Deppe »

Nicholas Locke

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #8 on: 2018-12-23, 12:23:08 PM »
All the ridiculous legal baggage really takes the joy out of what is such a wonderful art/craft/science! Think of the energy that is going into trying to avoid all the crazy legal jargon,  or the non advancement of wonderful new varieties for fear of litigation. It saddens me, and I hope It doesn't discourage anyone from creating their masterpieces or even new people looking to get into doing breeding.. 
"Maybe" said the farmer...

William S.

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #9 on: 2018-12-23, 01:01:43 PM »
It gives me pause with my wheat and barley projects though. I have lots of cool wheats and Barleys in separate packets but I think I need to purge the one season old grexes and unknowns from my seed stash and start a fresh grew of each from the unmixed packets. Otherwise I will have grexes for personal use only that I don't share or talk about online. The point though of my breeding is to share and develop organic alternatives to conventional. However I really want to mix in some modern wheats and barleys, so would need genetics that I could include. This is all theoretical at the moment because I think my tomato focus will continue through 2019.  I think I have plenty of heirloom wheats in my collection including Ethiopian blue tinged, purple winter, white sonora, Pima club, lofthouse, and einkorn among others.

Prairie Gold and Bronze Chief wheat berries are readily available as food and germinate readily. Wondering if they are safe to use- varieties are not new now. 

Would make sense to obtain the one wheat offered under OSSI and include it in the new grex maybe instead of the last two I mentioned.

It would also be interesting to say get to the point where we could offer enough OSSI germ plasm that amateurs could breed from it exclusively at least for awhile.
« Last Edit: 2018-12-23, 01:05:24 PM by William S. »
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A

Carol Deppe

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #10 on: 2018-12-23, 07:48:22 PM »
All the ridiculous legal baggage really takes the joy out of what is such a wonderful art/craft/science! Think of the energy that is going into trying to avoid all the crazy legal jargon,  or the non advancement of wonderful new varieties for fear of litigation. It saddens me, and I hope It doesn't discourage anyone from creating their masterpieces or even new people looking to get into doing breeding..
The fact that there is so much privatizing of seeds is one of the things that makes the contributions of freelance breeders all the more crucial.

Ocimum

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #11 on: 2018-12-24, 05:12:27 AM »
... I have lots of cool wheats and Barleys in separate packets but I think I need to purge the one season old grexes and unknowns from my seed stash and start a fresh grew of each from the unmixed packets....

If I may: as patents last only 20 or 25 years, you could just label the separate packets with a year instead of disposing of them. Later you can still use them, if the laws change maybe even earlier.

reed

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #12 on: 2018-12-24, 06:38:33 AM »
If I may: as patents last only 20 or 25 years, you could just label the separate packets with a year instead of disposing of them. Later you can still use them, if the laws change maybe even earlier.

That's what I do. I purchased a number of grape vines a few years ago to clone and sell. Two of them have PVP or license agreement, I don't remember right off what they called it but it does expire in just a few more years. I made some permanent metal tags with the variety name and expiration date of the  agreement.

I could pay the universities $250 a year plus $2.50 per vine but I'm not big enough scale to make it worth it. I'm not sure I have a problem with them having exclusive rights for a period to help support their work. Plus it doesn't apply to sexual propagation, so I can still plant the seeds.

It's the notion of seed or trait patents that really ticks me off, that just ain't right.   

William S.

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #13 on: 2018-12-24, 10:11:28 AM »
My unknown wheat and barley material is from grocery store bins. I don't know what varieties it is for sure. The patents I would be most concerned about are trait patents. Variety patents are ok to breed from and expire pretty fast. The individual packets I have are mostly heirloom stuff and fine to breed from. I could put a sample of it in the deep freeze and wait, but since I don't really have much time into it yet I should be able to put lots of generations into the new material. Better to sprout it and add it to a salad or grind it and make pancakes.

If I got a packet of known material, or had quite a few years invested in a project it would be fine to freeze it and wait. Or if I didn't much care about the project and only wanted it for my own use and curiosity. Part of the project is just a curiosiry. Can I establish a wheat and or barley grex in the old style and notice some crossing?

The really old style small grain populations included wild relatives and multiple ploidy levels. They were continuously evolving. Modern grain fields are the result of doubled haploids and are thus perfect inbred lines. My thought is the whole system of big ag small grains is inherently unstable. However those same big ag fields have tremendous yield advantages. So experimentally what I would like to see is if a grex composed of multiple ploidy level heirloom wheats and some modern wheat would recreate that but perhaps with higher yield.

https://www.sherckseeds.com/seeds/grains/wheat/armenian-wheat-mixture/

Sherck seeds is doing something similar here but with just three parents.

It would take quite a few years for natural crossing to work on such a mix.
« Last Edit: 2019-01-01, 11:07:44 PM by William S. »
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William S.

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Re: What are those beans? Legal issues around germplasm sourcing
« Reply #14 on: 2019-01-01, 10:32:12 PM »
I was just inventorying my wheat collection. I have an envelope of Winsome. I got my Winsome from my professor at OSU Robert Zemetra who breeds wheat there and formerly in Idaho. I took a plant tissue culture course from him and we used it to demonstrate embryo rescue technique in a lab. I asked being a smalls grains gardener if I could keep my plant and he said yes but to let him know how it did for me, that it was the variety "Winsome". I've only grown the one plant I think. It produced my current envelope. Perhaps about an ounce of seed. It looks like it was released around 1998 or 2000. Can I use it for further breeding? I really like the light taste of hard white spring wheats.

 https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.washingtoncrop.com/documents/Wheat/Spring/Hard%2520White/Winsome.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwi035i7q87fAhWDFXwKHWseClkQFjAAegQIAxAB&usg=AOvVaw2gc6xVMMDYJ3i0xe3O1fxe&cshid=1546406347967

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://smallgrains.ucdavis.edu/cereal_files/WhtCVDescLJ11.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiP0MPKrc7fAhUqiFQKHeDUCSYQFjAEegQIAhAB&usg=AOvVaw3o-gFzs4DUuxr1aBuju6Rf

I also have an envelope of Bronze Chief a hard red spring wheat I grew out from wheat berries sold for grinding and sprouting as food. I know it's been around since at least 1993 when my parents bought a vitamix blender that could grind wheat and it recommended Golden 86 and Bronze Chief wheats which are grown by Wheat Montana.
« Last Edit: 2019-01-01, 11:04:55 PM by William S. »
Western Montana garden, glacial lake Missoula sediment lacustrian clay mollisoil sometimes with added sand in places. Zone 6A