adriana's picture
As I was trying to understand why farmers are required to buy every year new seeds n stead of replanting them, I read in one of the answers by Kevin Folta that this was because the seeds would not produce the same qualities as newly bought seeds. Still I do not understand why companies like monsanto do just not discourage the replanting, but actively prohibit the continued use of their seeds and sue if this in fact happens.

A:Expert Answer

In regards to intellectual property rights and seed patents, Drew Kershen, Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of Oklahoma, provides an in-depth analysis of this topic in his response; here is an excerpt:
"Plant breeders (whether individuals, companies, cooperatives, or universities, or USDA) invest significant sums in creating, developing, and testing new varieties of crops.  For seed varieties, it is not unusual for a plant breeder to invest millions on a single variety in research and development costs.  Plant breeders would not invest these millions unless they had a way of recovering research and development costs.  Intellectual Property provides the 'exclusive Right' that allows the plant breeder to have a chance to recover those costs if seed dealers and farmers adopt that variety and pay for the seed.  These research and development costs can also be called “invention” costs.
"In addition, depending upon governing statues about how a seed can gain authorization for commercial release, plant breeders can also spend millions of dollars to gain regulatory approval for sale to seed dealers and farmers.  These regulatory costs are particularly large for genetically-engineered seeds.  The 'exclusive right' of Intellectual Property allows the plant breeder also the chance to recover these regulatory costs.  Regulatory costs can be also be called 'innovation' costs.
"Hence, the policy decision made by the U.S. Constitution, congressional statutes, and Supreme Court decisions is to allow intellectual property rights in seeds so that plant breeders have an incentive to invest time, talent, and money in creating new varieties of seeds for agricultural crops.  Without intellectual property rights in seeds, the progress of science in the plant breeding would diminish.
"Farmers quite easily calculate whether the costs of improved seeds is worthwhile to them.  Farmers quite easily calculate whether the harvests they obtain from improved seeds allows a greater profit and benefits to their farming operations than buying lesser quality seeds.  The vast majority of farmers voluntarily purchase improved seeds.  Only a few attempt to gain improved seeds without paying for them by saving seed in violation of the 'exclusive right' of inventors to their discovery."
Jillian Etress, an agriculture teacher and blogger, explains why farmers sign a technology contract when planting a GM seed:
"We choose to use or not use GMOs based on the needs of our farm. When we do buy GM seeds, we are required to sign a technology contract where we agree not to save seed from year to year. This protects the research that whatever seed company we purchase from that year has put into the seeds. That being said, the seed is still viable. Technically, it could be replanted and grown the next year; however, we choose to abide by the legal restraints of our contract and do not save GMO seed."
If you have additional questions, please ask!