Forum, Feb. 9: An Argument Against Patents for Seeds and Plants

Friday, February 09, 2018
Don’t Patent Seeds and Plants

In his article “Nurseries Safeguard Rare Plants” published Jan. 31, Washington Post writer Adrian Higgins endorses a perilous relationship we Americans have developed with the plants that feed us, a relationship I implore us to reconsider. I am making a philosophical argument here, and it is important because philosophy is the basis of all action.

Higgins mentions patents within the food crop world, and claims that they are “a reasonable legal device” as “breeders put a lot of their skills and their employers’ resources into developing new cultivars.” While people do indeed supply a lot of skill and resources for the development of new varieties, inventor patents for seeds and plants are not reasonable, nor are they good.

They are not reasonable because, first, a crop variety developed through traditional, field-based breeding is not an invention in itself. The genes have been selected and crossed, deliberately and not, over thousands of years through the hands of countless stewards. Techniques may be novel, as in the case with genetic engineering in a laboratory, but the genes themselves are not, no matter the combination. Second, this “device” only became available in 1970, approximately 9,950 years after humans began directly manipulating the evolution of plants. Finally, seeds and plants are a common heritage to all people, and the appropriation and use restriction of them is obscene.

Applying patents to food crops is not good, either. To reject the doctrine of ownership and use restriction might seem un-American, but to permit it is to relinquish our liberty — perhaps the most defining and coveted American value of all. We have created a world where everything is a commodity to be capitalized upon. In practical terms, this means we are less in control of our own lives, instead dependent on corporations whose only goal is to get rich and whose own vitality shakily rests on natural resources they are polluting and depleting.

There are other ways to ensure that people are rewarded for their work. Say no to patents.

Haleigh J. Paquette


Student Wins VFW Essay Contest

Sofia Gulik, of Springfield High School, representing Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 771 in Springfield, Vt., won the Vermont Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Voice of Democracy Essay contest, held at the VFW in Middlebury, Vt., on Jan. 20.

Gulik competed with other high school students in Vermont. With the winning essay on the theme of “American History: Our Hope for the Future,” she was awarded a $1,000 scholarship by the Vermont VFW Department and an all-expense-paid trip in March to Washington, D.C., where she will compete against other essay contest winners from around the country.

Established in 1947, the Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the opportunity to express themselves in a democratic- and patriotic-themed recorded essay.

Each year, nearly 40,000 students in grades 9-12 from across the country enter to win their share of $2.1 million in education scholarships and incentives awarded through the program.

The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000 in the essay competition. Information on the contest can be found at the website: https://www.vfw.org/community/youth-and-education/youth-scholarships.

C. William Mattoon

Springfield, Vt.

Spend Vermont Money on Vermonters

A recent article talked about how the Vermont state government is spending millions of tax dollars to woo out-of-staters to move to Vermont (“Vermont Eyes Plan to Boost Its Population: Program Aims to Attract More People to Invigorate Economy,” Jan. 29).

Such a shame that they are spending this money outside Vermont on non-Vermonters. What they should be doing is supporting local Vermont-owned and -operated businesses to make Vermont a better place to live and work, rather than taking the taxes from us Vermonters and spending it outside Vermont.


Walter Jeffries

West Topsham

A Long Family History of Service

It was amazing reading Steve Nelson’s column (“Military and Public Service Are Different,” Jan. 21). He has summarily dismissed the military service of my family.

From the Spanish American War (my grandfather), World War I (my father-in-law), World War II (my uncle), Korea (my cousin), the late 1960s and ’70s (my submariner brother) and on a Navy cruiser (my brother-in-law), the Mediterranean (my son on the cruiser), and now my grandson is a Marine.

I am pleased that my family, and thousands of other families, have kept Nelson and his family safe.

So, from the Spanish-American War to terrorism today, my family has served and also succeeded in private life.

God bless all the troops.

Janet Connolly


No Fan of McCoy Cartoon, Either

Thanks to Louis Cornell’s letter (“McCoy Cartoon Was Anti-Semitic,” Feb. 2), I am also moved to write to you about publishing the McCoy drawing, which was published Jan. 30.

It is so disturbing that I just put the paper aside and tried to forget about it.

It is best described as pornography and I think the paper owes an apology for printing it. And a resolution to not spread such harmful material.

Amelia Sereen


Headline Was a Work of Art

Kudos to the creative headline writer who thought up the headline “Escheresque,” which appeared Feb. 1 over the photograph on page B1 of the building under construction in White River Junction.

M.C. Escher has always been one of my favorite artists.

Fran R. Haugen

East Thetford