Abstract

New innovations in agricultural biotechnology have radically altered traditional farming, including some long-held practices among farmers such as saving the seed from one crop for planting the next season. Now that farmers buy licensed seed technology from seed breeders, saving seed constitutes infringement. Utility patents, Plant Variety Protection Certificates (PVPCs), and licensing and other contractual arrangements between farmers and intellectual property (IP) owners all serve to protect seed breeders' discoveries from competitors while encouraging continued innovation. Contracts placing specific restrictions on farmers' ability to save seed have engendered significant controversy. Some state legislators have proposed statutory schemes designed to push back the intellectual property rights (IPRs) of the seed developer and re-establish farmers' ability to save seed. This chapter looks at the history of intellectual property protection (IPP) for plants and the current contractual measures between seed companies and farmers. It further examines current legislative measures to protect seed-saving practices, and finally looks forward to constitutional questions raised by seed-saving statutes.

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