Plant breeding in the public interest

Kondla, Norbert FOR:EX Norbert.Kondla at
Fri Jun 9 19:13:16 EDT 2000

To put a butterfly spin on part of this interesting thread; I wish to rise
to the bait of social policy and "too much government interference".  How
much is too much is of course a matter of opinion based on individual values
and whether or not a particular social policy is perceived to harm or help
us.  Here in British Columbia, Canada I am blessed to have a provincial
government monopoly on land ownership - about 85 % is government-owned which
is another way of saying that it is owned by the corporation of the people
who live here.  This allows me tremendous free access to all manner of
outdoor recreational activities and a bonanza of biodiversity (butterflies
included of course).  Contrast that to a situation where almost all the land
is privately owned, grazed to hell, cultivated to hell, logged to hell,
paved to hell, built on to hell (get the picture ??) - and liberally posted
with 'no trespassing' signs.  You can likely guess which version of social
policy and government "interference" I most enjoy :-) Some may raise the
'tragedy of the commons' issue but where I see a conspicuous destruction of
biodiversity is in the 'tragedy of private ownership' -- altho there are
admitted exceptions to all generalizations.

-----Original Message-----
From: Patrick Foley [mailto:patfoley at]
Sent: Friday, June 09, 2000 3:46 PM
To: cherubini at
Cc: leps-l at
Subject: Re: Plant breeding in the public interest

Paul and other leppers,
    Surely you are not asking for a lesson in the dangers of concentrating
power in a few
hands? Nor can you be ignorant of the dangers a genetically depauperate
population or
cultivar faces. Let us not argue over the obvious.
    There is a serious problem here in social policy with dangers from too
much government
interference and from too much business monopoly power. This is especially
tragic given the
ancient and wonderful tradition of agricultural diversification that
enrichens our human
society and gives the individual farmer a free hand. I believe that
government research
money should encourage the ancient tradition rather than extirpate it. If
engineered organisms become too economically attractive, then let us produce
some of our
monsters (if not all) in the public domain, and let individual farmers
control the future
of agriculture.
    In the absence of a compelling counterargument, my touchstone is the
maintenance and
extension of individual freedom, not corporate or government freedom. There
are many
occasions when the individual must bow to the group, but why is this one of
them? Should
horse breeders retain the license for stud DNA? The usual argument is that
requires risk that needs some incentive. That incentive already exists.
Companies already
sell seed. Scientists already experiment with genetic engineering. The
aditional incentive
of long-term licenses is attractive to seed companies, but why should I be
about the extension of patent law to cover genetic recombinations. The
slippery slope to
the bizarre is obvious given that all life on earth involves genetic

This is (you may hope and pray) my last public word on this tangential (to
subject unless provoked. I hope the provocateurs (Bruce, Doug and Paul so
far) enjoy their
chance to have the last laugh and to testify to their faith in the free

Patrick Foley
patfoley at

Paul Cherubini wrote:

> Patrick Foley wrote:
> > But it may be disastrous for the long-term public interest to commit
much of our land
> > and harvest into a few hands and a few genotypes.
> Can you give us some specific scenarios or models of potential
> consequences? Perhaps examples from other industries long controlled by a
> hands?
> Paul Cherubini

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