Since 1915: A Look Back at Plant Breeders’ Rights

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A Moment in Time

Our February 1968 issue featured commentary on the “Breeders’ Rights Problem” in the United States and abroad.

“For a number of years, members of the seed industry have been trying to come up with a program which would give plant breeders the protection they need for the time, work and money they invest in developing and perfecting new plant varieties and which would, at the same time, meet with the approval of government agencies in charge of seed law enforcement.

The breeders’ rights programs in operation or being considered in some of the countries in Europe would, as felt by seedsmen in the United States, lead to a slowing down in breeding work and the introduction of new and better varieties; it would have a tendency to turn the direction of breeding efforts toward varieties that have distinguishing characteristics rather than to improving existing varieties.

The committee appointed by President Johnson to study the Patents Act and recommend changes needed in it made its report in the closing months of 1967, and one of the changes recommended was the dropping of plant patents from the Act and finding other means of protection for plants. However, Congress was unable (due to lack of time) to give this recommendation consideration.

Meanwhile, nurserymen who have been able to patent asexually reproduced plants have pointed out that the provisions in the Patents Act giving protection to breeders of such plants has worked out well for them, and they have protested against having the Patents Act changed in this respect.

The American Seed Trade Association has suggested to its members that they write a letter to the Commissioner of Patents that they are opposed to plant patents being dropped and instead that this Act should be expanded to include sexually reproduced plants.”

Facts and Figures from this 1968 Issue:

10,000 years is the age of Arctic lupine seed botanists were able to grow healthy plants from in an experiment carried out at the National Museum of Canada.

13.4 million pounds of seed is imported into the United States in January 1968, down from 13.9 million the year prior.

1/3 is the amount U.S. crop production is expected to increase from 1965 to 1980.

4 billion is the forecasted world population for the year 1975.

11 is the number of “man hours” needed to produce 100 bushels of sorghum grain, down from 49 hours in 1959.

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