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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Monsanto: Weaponizing GMO DNA Against You

A few years ago I wrote "Weaponized Intellectual Property" and "Genetic Engineering: It's What's for Dinner."

These were articles about how patent trolls (like Monsanto) could create situations where you could be sued for something they owned that ended up in your possession through a means outside your control.

But today Monsanto has one-upped the trolls.

Their game is to ensure that self replicating items like seed that contain their patented DNA remain their property no matter what.

This includes if someone sells them to others.

This also includes the case where your non-Monsanto seeds are "inoculated" by winds carrying DNA from Monsanto seeds in a nearby field.

The case is in the Supreme court (see this at the NY Times).

Some shlub thought he could escape Monsanto's grip by going to a grain elevator and buying some random soybeans.

He reasoned that neighbors had signed Monsanto contracts (as had he) to use the seeds as had he.

(The contract prohibits you from "saving" the seeds to replant next year as they are Monsanto's property.)

So the neighbors sold the seeds to a grain elevator.

Who sold them to this schlub.

Who planted them and found that low and behold some Round Up Ready soybeans survived.

Now Monsanto is suing the schlub for what amounts to theft of their "patented property."

So how are those who sold the seeds to the grain elevator in the first place not guilty.

They signed a contract not to save seeds - but they did.

Then they sold them to a third party who could not identify what seeds were Monsanto seeds and what seeds were not - the Monsanto GMO seeds look the same as the those which are not.

So this guy bought them.


The schlub is holding the bag even though he did not violate his contract by saving seeds.

Should Monsanto win this case it will open the floodgates of "intellectual property" troll lawsuits.

Today IP trolls have been largely squashed by the judicial system - in part because they are wrong for what they are trying to do but also because there is no case law supporting their idea.

But a wrong decision here by the Supreme Court will seal your fate.

The current troll notion is that no matter how it got there if your computer contains someone else's IP then you can be sued regardless of intent.

Now this is truly nonsense.

Criminal law, for the most part, requires that you have intent when you do something wrong.

For example:  If there is an item in your car that was stolen it matters if you bought it in good faith at a yard sale or bought it off a known thief.  (There are exemptions for deals that are "too good to be true" but if you are paying a reasonable fee for something that in no way appears to be stolen then intent is on your side.)

But today's Monsanto lawyers want this swept away.

If you possess "it" - whatever "it" is - and "it" contains their IP (copyrighted or patented) then you're guilty.

Now imagine the fun.

Opt-in emails or bit coins or diddly bunks from some computer game are infused with weaponized IP - perhaps a snippet of a copywritten song or some patented code.

The emails or bit coins or diddly bunks happily store themselves in the "cloud" and subsequently install themselves on your iPads, andriod phones, Apple TV, etc.


An IP lawyer sues you because you have "stolen" their client's IP.  Even though the emails, bit coins or diddly bunks installed themselves without your direction on your devices.

This idiot Roberts is worried about how much money you can make - not about what's right or wrong:

“Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?” 

In the past hybrid seeds were created by university ag departments for the benefit of the community and the world.

If the seed DNA escaped and made the world a better place so much the better.  (Generally since these were hybrids bred from standard seed stock there was no real downside.)

But Monsanto's DNA can now be anywhere: in soybean oil, in your food, in your body, anywhere.

Yes, people do eat soybeans directly: Edamame.

And if it integrates itself into your body (in your DNA, in your gut, in the bacteria that live inside you) this potential new law will say you have stolen their intellectual property (something like this is just one mutation away...).

Perhaps I can integrate some of my patented computer code into a seed and release it into the wind.

Then I can sue anybody that has that seed growing in their yard.

What insanity!

Do you think Monsanto will claim "ownership" of this GMO DNA if it does something bad somewhere along the line?

I can hear the lawyers now: "Oh no, your honor, its a natural seed in a natural world - we have no control over it."

Patenting things which control themselves is insane.

So is messing with their DNA - look up how "Round Up Ready" was done in the lab via "cut and paste" - the potential for a bad downside is I think significant.   No study, no analysis of risk, just get that patented shit out their so we can make our investment back ASAP!

Soybean seeds are alive.  No one knows how or why they are soybeans - they just exist as part of nature.

They reproduce themselves as part of nature.

From what I can tell the Surpreme court is full of idiots.  Idiots who cannot see the implications of what is before them.

Certainly I agree that Monsanto created the seeds and their magic DNA in the first place.

That's not the problem.

The problem is what the seeds do on their own outside the control of Monsanto.

But you can bet Monsanto won't be taking responsibility for that if it turns out badly...

Its also been argued that this case is like acquiring a song and then giving a copy to all your friends for free.


Its like downloading a song that then replicates itself like a virus onto all your computer and through the network to other peoples houses.

Big difference.

But one that escapes the idiots at the US Supreme Court.

Too bad.

The Supreme Court got the decisions about Promethius Laboratories right - no patenting natural processes.

So the question here is this.

Is the seeds reproduction a natural process?  After all soybeans were reproducing long before the 1980's when Monsanto's GMO work came along.

Or does the funky new DNA Monsanto injected into them somehow trump natural reproduction?

The seeds existed before Monsanto so my guess is that this fact should/would have to trump everything else.

GMO Monsanto "Round Up Ready" soybean DNA is in virtually everything you eat that's manufactured in some way.

Is this really a good idea?

PS: If you read the accounts of how it was created Monsanto exposed some living organism (bacteria I think) to ever-increasing doses of glyphosate over time.  After the organisms could "tolerate" high levels they cut and pasted until they had soybeans doing the same.

Did they really invent this?

No - the organism evolved a tolerance on its own.

I think there are some links to the original patents on some of my related posts.

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