Over the past 10, 000 years, human race has developed under impetuous of applied genetics. Humankind is gaining increasing understanding in heredity variation among living things, the science of genetics. This raises various issues in terms of science and technology that spring from genetics, and potential impacts advancing from such inventions. These are the most progressing areas of the knowledge of humankind in today’s world. There has been genetic modification of plants to make them resilient, profitable and nutritious. This is achieved through genetic engineering, where organisms are manipulated to produce desired trait like drought tolerance or higher yields.
There has been contemporary emphasis on genetic engineering in government interests, and contemporary research thus allowing widespread of this technology and its adoption. Some critics refer to this as ‘Gene Revolution’, which can later lead to international control of agri- business and consolidation, at the expense of crop diversity to local self- sufficiency.
Genetic technologies exist in the larger context of maturing science. The key to these technologies involve understanding how the field of genetic works and interaction with the society. Humanity has changed the planning and cultivating techniques with the constant change in subsistence farming, storing crops and foraging. Similarly, the character of humanity has changed with the change in permanent settlement development, domestication of animals and the rise of modern science and biotechnology, hence affecting society’s nature
In the same point, genetic technologies depend on the fundamental principle that the organism differs and resemble their parents at the same time. The major conceptual boost for such engineering is simply based on observation of characteristics from parent to offspring, and the study of how transmission occurs.
Understanding genetic technology is vital in assessing future effects and in the lives of different people. This is because such technologies touch in an intimate and fundamental needs of mankind; energy, healthcare and food supplies. At the same time, they trigger concerns in different areas which should also be addressed. Such concerns are seen to be seen in risks involved in basic and applied scientific research development and nature of innovations but at the same time the dwindling supplies of natural resources. Genetic engineering is seen to be an indispensable tool in solving the food problems in the world today; however other humans denounce it because of its overreaching potential Dangers.
However, uses of such genetically modified seeds have benefits which include drought tolerance and higher yields. On the other hand, it is associated with environmental and health risks. Such risks include production of new toxins and allergies and spread of harmful weed traits to non- genetically modified crops or animals that may consume them. An excellent example is the impact of overuse of herbicide-tolerant in genetic engineered crops, which leads to increase in herbicide use, which leads to epidemic resistant (super weeds), which leads to further increase in herbicide use. Also, other Genetic engineering impacts can occur, because each crop- gene combination used possess its own kind of risks.
Therefore, this raises issues of social justice concerns because GMOs are a recent addition to the green revolution in the urban areas which curbs food insecurity in the urban and rural areas. However, on the other hand, they can be seen as a threat to food security; as demonstrated by the mustard seeds in a research in India, which was a threat to public health. GMO’s reinforce global agribusiness; however, they undermine diversity of local species. A small number of global conglomerates have introduced genetically modified seed which they own patents. This creates a greater economic dependency by farmers, as they have to give up their traditional practices of saving their own seeds, but buy seeds after every harvest. This leads to bankruptcy due to greater reliance on credit (Wilson, 2005, p. 49).
In the same note, there are also issues of unequal access, and still dog technological advancements in this area. Therefore, genetic modification has raised different social justice concerns in regards to human welfare. This is because the genetic modifications raise new ethical issues, and the unequal effects on human beings, thus raising social justice issues. Such ethical issues arise in terms of biotic inputs and control over the seeds. Development of the seeds by larger companies also causes issues, because the needs of people in the north and south are different. Therefore, social justice issues arise in terms of unequal distribution of resources and investment in these technologies, rather than addressing the healthcare need of developing countries; through developing traditional means (Cahill, 2005, p.11).
Inevitably, decisions in regards to such technologies have to be made by various institutions and in the market place; in regards to such genetics and the capabilities. Given the agricultural value and biodiversity, seeds are a target for controversial diversity; in terms of variety of protections to regulate exchange, sale and breeding and intellectual property right of genetic resources.
Genetic modifications of crops have complex legal issues, in the use genetic- engineering technology. Patent laws are seen to be vital in such inventions, they give the inventor exclusive legal rights to such patent inventions. A patent is a legal document giving an inventor exclusive rights in regards to the invention. This is because individuals and companies invest a lot of time and money to ensure such patents are available (Hartman, 2012, p. 35).
It has been seen that governments for many years could not give patents for things found in nature. In 1980, the supreme court of U.S ruled in favor of a scientist, Anada Charkrabaty, who invented an organism for killing oil spills. This was the first time government granted patent for living organisms. Since then, courts worldwide have granted thousands of patents for transgenic organisms and genes (Hartman, 2012, p. 35). The decision in 1980 was the key to science arguments, as it showed that genes have very predictable effects and stay from one organisms to organism. However, scientists now know that this idea is not correct. They assert that the same gene may operate in a bacterium, plant or animal in different ways. Nonetheless, individual gene patents continue to be granted.
In the same point, seed governance is seen to be an open- ended process in the strategic elaboration, among other constituents in the divergence, conservation and trade of agriculture. International regulations present an array of choices despite their contradictions. Many countries adopt such laws to favor privatization and commercialization. This results to imposition of such regulations and adoption of dominant global perspectives in the agricultural process and seed technology.
Accordingly, patents are seen to have sparked considerable debates over impacts they have on farmers. Firstly implications of patented genetic materials from neighboring farms being incorporated to crop, so as crops become means of manufacturing patented seeds themselves. Secondly, the farmer’s right to use save- seed for future crops. In JEM Supply V Pioneer Hi-bred International, was a case in regards to the distinction between protection of an invention under conventional utility of patent law and protection of plant variety as seen in sui generis legislation. The underlying issue in this case was legitimate scope in regards to exceptions to control to downstream genetically modified protected seeds, and the farmer’s right to re-plant from saved seeds. The policy issue in this case was whether the subject matter was fit to be a patent form of intangible property and not whether it should be treated as an invention. The concerns raised here are in regards to exceptions and legitimate scope in regards to patent rights and distinct rights provided under intellectual property rights. Different proponents argue that Sui generis is a better fit in regards to the subject matter because it does not constrain the use of saved- farms seeds for re-planting (Lewinski, 2008, p. 220).
Contractually, the ostensibly higher incentive in obtaining a patent, justifies the greater exclusivity in patent rights, because of the requirements. This makes; utility patent holders receive greater exclusion rights than holders. Notably, there are no research exemptions for saving seed in the patent utility. Despite this policy linkage, distinction is important to maintain in terms of the grant of intangible property title and the nature of attached rights. An excellent example is the EU Biotech Directive, which includes patenting of seeds. However, it has exclusion from patent rights and specific defense to allow farmers plant seeds which have been saved. Similarly, Schmeiser case in Canada, involved exercise of patent rights that covered genetically modified seeds. This was despite the fact that, under Canadian law, seeds or plants as such are not patentable. Arguably, Monsato did not claim protection for genetically modified plant, but rather modified cells and genes found in the plant and modified the plant. The case pivoted the between rights that flow from the property and clear distinction between property and object (Lewinski, 2008, p. 221).
However, different forms of intellectual property law mechanisms and systems relevant for the use of commercial exploitation of genetic resources, do not grant exercise of distinct property or grant of titles as such. Such distinct mechanisms include confidentiality agreements, non- disclosure, use of patent information on public domain and measures against unfair competition. Measures of patent information in the public domain also include the use of technology in reference to patent information and patent rights in certain jurisdictions. Hence, intellectual property mechanisms can be used in discussions and general analysis, instead of using the intellectual property rights, which is more specific.
In the United States of America, intellectual property laws give seed companies monopoly of their products. This is pro- competitive because each seed is a new product. However, the models of such seed making companies have implications for both biotechnology industry and competition for farmers. The political ecology can be used in examining consequences of genetically modified seed market through legal and historical contextualization of intellectual property rights and the effects on the genetically modified seed market.
Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution of the United States provide provisions for intellectual property laws. The constitution provides that Congress has powers to enacting patent and copyright, which gives creators of new inventions exclusive rights. Consequently such rights are vital in enhancing knowledge, promotion of useful products; thus granting rights a special purpose which in turn enhances technology and knowledge.
However, such rights have certain characteristics. They can be limited by other laws, can be limited by time and their purpose is commercial. Therefore, patents are granted in regards to the product and not the idea. However, natural occurring elements cannot be patented; such elements are like salts. Additionally, copyright laws are put in place to act as a barrier to prevent further innovation. One can patent a formula for killing insects, but cannot patent the concept of killing such insects. Therefore, this allows the development of better ideas in improvement of such formulas (Brownsword, 1998, p. 206).
Genetically modified seeds are novel in explaining what is patentable. Clearly, natural occurring genes are not patentable. Until 1930, plant patent law, plant were not considered patentable because they did not fit the written description of what is patentable. However, due to their potential in addressing hunger, increase production and use for commercial purposes, they were considered patentable.
Recently, seeds have been commoditized. This is because granting patents for genetically modified seeds allows them to be commoditized. Saving seeds is an agricultural practice which has been engrained in farming practice over different generations. Rights to reproduce sell and use seeds to farmers are assumed with the first purchase of seed. Private seed industry can be traced back in the history of U.S, where it was little resource, and there was little investment put to it. Saving exemption remained, as farmers continued to control production means as the private industry underwent expansion, with increased ability to patent. Later, hybridization paved way for control of seeds by companies and set stage for today’s large agribusiness companies like Monsanto (Brownsword, 1998, p. 206).
This is also seen in the case of Chaklaberry, which set precedent, and led to commoditization and privatization of genetically modified seeds, and also the farmers saving exceptions. Similarly, in the case of Asgrow Seed v Winterboer, the Supreme Court made a decision that; seeds were licensed as commodities. Such regulatory and legal environment created a ripe atmosphere to consolidate the intense seed industry, hence the need for companies to control shares.
Evidently, two thirds of proprietary seed market is controlled by ten companies, and Monsanto occupies almost a quarter of the seed market. Recent trends of consolidations and mergers and acquisitions in companies have created anti-trust concerns. Therefore, justice should be ensured through approval of mergers by justice department, so as to ensure consumers have greater choices and lower prices in their selection of services and goods. Litigation should also determine competitive effects of the company, to ensure that they outweigh the anti-competitive.
Another recent trend in genetically modified seeds is seen in allowing trait –stacking. This is where, company grants permission to another company, through patent license, allowing them to combine genes or seeds in their seed products. Such is seen in insecticide resistance and herbicide resistance, where two types of traits are used simultaneously. Other issues which present future legal problems are monopoly by certain companies; such is seen in Monsanto’s strict control of their trait licenses, thus controlling supply of genetic traits. Therefore, Monsanto controls genetic supply, hence becoming a monopoly. Policies should focus on such market trends to prevent monopoly, and ensure justice for farmers, by putting in place policies to ensure fair prices
Generally, the biotechnology industry is seen to rely heavily on intellectual property for the enforcement of their rights. Intellectual property laws, therefore serve as anti-competitive barriers. Patents are seen to act as a limiting factor for reproduction in the market. An excellent example is the Soybean herbicide, where Monsanto filedsuit against their patent infringement. Their variety stacked a subsidiary trait which was Monsanto’s ready trait, and Monsanto claimed infringement of their licensing agreement. The ruling favored Monsanto, and increased the market share for Monsanto and put in place a licensing agreement between the two companies.
Genetic modification of organisms is seen to be a crucial part in development and improvements, in agriculture. This helps to solve various agricultural issues like creating crops resistant to drought and higher yields. However, such inventions raise different concerns in terms of policies and patent rights. Analysis of future trend is vital to policy making bodies, to ensure that they curb different problems arising from GMO’s. Such seeds are seen to be of great importance in day –to –day living, however, it raised different agricultural, social justice and health concerns. Such issues need to be addressed through policies that ensure equitable share of resources. Biotechnology industry raises different social justice concerns through distribution. Different religious groups have spoken in regards to genetically modified crops and their threat to food security and economic justice (Cahill, 2005, p. 13). GMOs are not intrinsically evil per say, but their distribution creates inequality hence creating issues of social justice.
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