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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Patented Blackberries

Patented Blackberries.
Would you buy them? 
A friend of mine called today and said she was ordering blackberries from an online nursery. She asked me if I wanted to go in on the order with her. That way we could each get a few ever bearing and a few June bearing. I told her I was in. I just wanted to see what types we were going to get so I could make sure they would do well in our area and make sure they were a variety that my family would enjoy.  

She sent me the link to the website.

I looked through the blackberries.

The two varieties she tole me we were going to get were both patented. In fact, all but 2 of the varieties were patented. 

I called her right back and told her I changed my mind, and didn't want any.

Am I over-reacting? Is the movie "The Future of Food" still to ingrained in my mind? Stories of canola seed blowing into a farmers field and growing, ending in a huge lawsuit, because of patents on food, weigh on my mind.  

I don't want to grow a food that is patented. 

What are your thoughts?


Rachel said...

Patented is not the same as Genetically Modified. While GMOs are patented, not all patented plants are GMOs.

These blackberries are a hybrid that someone created and then patented so nurseries can't propagate and make money off of their creation.

Unknown said...

But, doesn't that mean that technically I can't split these blackberry bushes to make more bushes because they are patented. I would have to purchase more bushes to get more.

Mike said...

My understanding is that if they are patented you will not be able to split them, nor will you be able to share splits with anyone else. As dumb as it sounds, if someone has a patent on a living thing (corn, pigs, what have you) then they own it's offspring and you don't. It is illegal for you to use seeds or stalks to reproduce the plant. I hope someone can tell me I am wrong but that is my understanding.

Mike said...

Here is an articel about patented plants on Oregon State Universities website about patented plants.


It says,"A patent legally prevents others from reproducing the protected plant variety by cuttings, tissue culture or any other method of asexual propagation without the written authorization or licensing of the patent holder. Possession of improperly propagated plants of patented varieties constitutes infringement, even if an illegal propagation was inadvertent."

I interpret this to mean you can't propogate them whatsoever without permission.

Meg@MegaCrafty said...

I don't like the idea of patented food- GMO or not. I wouldn't have bought them either.


Simmer down everyone.
The patent can last up to 20 years. It's only a legal thing to prevent scoundral from starting the plants and selling them. Honestly, the plants are fine and very safe. I would use them. Get some, plant them, and enjoy. Just don't go into the berry business to be safe.

Is it still bare root season in your area? Your local nursery should have some great/superior stock that will work well in your area. Look for bare root stock held in wood shavings until purchased. Those kind in the box stores are already in plastic bags. The roots aren't available for inspection.

Good luck and don't panic.

Unknown said...

Hear, hear. Can you say unnatural? GMO or not, I agree with Meg. I don't encourage patents on our living things. I buy elsewhere.


One additional mention, the patent has nothing to do with the ability to split or propagate the the plants. The plants can physically be reproduced. Healthful berries could line your fence in the future. The patent is only a legal thing. I really don't see the government having patent inspectors heading out your way to make sure your home garden is propagating legally. Enjoy jam for years to come.

Come on everyone. Put the brakes on the panic. All is well.

Hazel said...

I wouldn't buy them either. It isn't panic that stops me but ethics. I think the patenting of plants and genes and scientific discoveries is horrible. That is why I am trying to grow more and more heirloom varieties to keep them going so that in future there will still be 'free' seeds and plants.

Unknown said...

Guess I'm one of those scoundrels they are trying to protect against. I don't believe in the ability to patent a living thing and if I buy a plant and give you money for it, you don't have the right to tell me I can't grow more from it and sell those.

It may be your seed originally, but if I use my soil, water, plant food and the seeds come from fruit of the plant I bought from you. I should have the right to sell them new plants.


An heirloom is only an older variety. It could have originated prior to 1945 or 50+ years or 100+ years. The definition is fuzzy. A patent is only intended to protect a grower so their stock isn't reproduced and sold without recognition and profit. Patented does not mean GMO or Frankenberries. The Heirloom Orchardist does a nice job explaining.

Okay. I'm exasperated and sorry for commenting so much here. Education solves so much.

Happy gardening.

Jennifer said...

I look forward to reading the links in these comments. I've been curious, too. Years ago I bought Russian sage plants whose labels said something like "propagation prohibited." Huh? No one told the plants. They've reproduced on their own. Funny, that.

Meg@MegaCrafty said...

For me this isn't about being scared of the fruit... it's not a frankenberry thing (although personally I do think patenting plants is a natural gateway for GMO practices) for me it's more about...

Economy- The fewer people who control the source of food (seeds) the more our entire economy depends on their good behavior and sensibilities. I don't think many of us have to look farther than our recent bank/economy world collapse to know that when a few people control everything we are in an imbalanced state.

Agriculture- From an agricultural standpoint I think removing a farmers ability (and eventually knowledge) of saving seeds or propagating plants is a bad thing. And patenting plants encourages tactics to "crowd out" the competition. More people using your seed equals higher profits. Too high a percentage of the same exact crop being planted can lead to devastating crop loss on a mass scale.

Sustainability- Which has a lot to do with the first two points, but also the idea that buying new seeds every year instead of saving your own can hurt your wallet (especially is you've faced a mass failure of crops the year before).

And finally a food control issue- everybody drinking water from the same tainted well makes everybody sick. Plus one or a few very large, wealthy, powerful uncaring corporation(s) being in charge of food supply it opposite of the local sustainable small agricultural community I want to support.

This may sound like doom and gloom or hysterics to some but I think patented seeds/plants lead down a bad road. And while yes with berries you'll get years and years of harvests and don't really have to contend with buying new seeds each year, I for one would like to avoid this and not encourage it with any of my dollars.

But everyone is entitled to their own opinion... buy them if you wish. I won't... but it doesn't mean I'm panicked into a state of irrational thought about it.

Meg@MegaCrafty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JULIE said...

I agree with Meg. Even if patented plants aren't GMO it does pave the way for it, and I just think patenting life is wrong. By purchasing patented seeds or plants you are supporting this. I think given the recent GMO patents that have been allowed:(beets, alfalfa, my posts on this http://theurbanhomestaed.blogspot.com/2011/02/obama-administration-approves-3-new-gmo.html)
on top of what is already on the market (Soy, Corn, Cotton, Canola).
Understanding how farmers have been persuaded to use GMO seeds or bullied into it if they did not (by lawsuits from their crops being cross contaminated), only to find out they are spending more money on seeds (that they use to be able to save) and pesticides (the very idea of the seeds are to be drowned in pesticides). The question is who will protect the vast variety of heirloom seeds and plants? I think we the home gardener will become the important keepers of these important plants.

I know that blackberries aren't a plant that's a concern in this regard, but as Meg said I think the issue to me is that patenting plants is patenting life. The idea that one should be able to protect their work of creating a plant, is the same idea behind GMO's. What we are saying is that we believe that companies have a right to own life.

Alison said...

Makes me glad I live in Oregon where blackberries are a noxious weed! :)

Zach said...

I would not use them, for purely economic and ethical reasons. I understand the motives behind patenting the plant, and I don't fault the developer for wanting to protect his work.

However, I prefer to not support a system of patenting plants that are a part of the food supply. It is his/her right to patent the product of their research and development, and it is my right to refuse to support him/her.

Maybelline, you may find that more careful reading leads to less exasperation. You are making a valid point, but not one that is relevant to the comments you are responding to.


Zach: thank you for your thoughtful direction.

Mike said...

I am impressed by the knowledge of all the readers on this blog. It is great to have a dialogue like this and I learned a lot. I think Maybelline makes great points in that we can't be completely emotional on a decision and I must admit that I was initially. There are good points presented as well on why people are against buying patented products. Thanks everyone for commenting.

Steve said...

Good call on passing on them.

I wanna meet the dude that decided it was a good idea to patent plants.

At this rate we'll need to purchase a license to reproduce ourselves. Greed knows no bounds.

Love your blog!

Veggie PAK said...

Patents take our liberties away from us using the plants as we wish/need to feed our families. Patented plants are in the same field as GMO's in my opinion.

And to Steve, I believe the dude that thought it was a good idea to patent plants was wearing a long black robe along with a former employee of Monsanto, also wearing a long black robe.

Kim said...

I totally would've passed on them. I am with Hazel in thinking its unethical to 'own' a living organism. And Meg is right - don't give them an open door to walk all over our freedoms with - give them an inch and as the govt has often proven, they will take a mile of our freedom to feed our children from our own land away, a mile at a time. I wouldn't support any patent on plants or anything growing.

Mike Siesel said...

I just planted three Prime Jim blackberry plants which were originally developed by the University of Arkansas. They also developed Prime Jan and Prime 45.


What's unique about them is that they bear fruit on 1st year canes as well as the 2nd year canes. So you get two harvests every year instead of just one from the 2nd year canes.

The nursery I bought them from acquired a license to propagate these plants, and that money goes back to the university for future research.

As an agronomist I understand very well the issues surrounding GM seed crops, but these berries are not developed by corporations seeking a monopoly, but a Land Grant college that is fulfilling its purpose.

Anonymous said...

I got a stupid email from starkbros saying I can't make new plants because they have them patented. You know what i did I laughed in their faces and made more anyway. Hahahaha like they could ever find out and do anything to me anyway.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I have triple crown which are semi-erect and they have been tip layering themselves naturally, but according to these bozos I would have to pull up and destroy the new plant. Are they kidding me? Blackberries are a creation of God, whether these people have created a new variety doesn't matter. I have the sovereign right to do as I please with what God has put on this earth. Genesis 1:28 (Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and Ove the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Summer said...

I wish the supreme court would repeal that decision. Patents are for inventions, not discoveries. Genes are not inventions or intellectual property. They existed before they were found, whether they started in a blackberry or a flounder.

Maybelline, it's not that heirlooms are magical and therefore we should grow them, it's that they breed true, taste good, and grow well, and belong to everyone, whether they are 10 or 100 years old that make them the better option.