GMO patent infestation

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Philippines provincial banner announcing banned GMO crops.The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia published the cheerful report, “Monsanto Runs Into Wall. Yes!!” in their “Why Permaculture/GMOs” website section.

Poor little Monsanto must be feeling the heat. They’ve got a Biotech-GMO cheerleading page online that essentially says organic customers and growers face no danger from them.

I’ve been listening to the Audible edition of chimp researcher and environmentalist Jane Goodall’s recent book about the global food situation, Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating.

Goodall catalogs a list of familiar problems with GMO food, including neighboring fields with heirloom varieties being contaminated and destroyed because of their supposed intellectual property infringement as if the organic grower wanted the Frankenfood strain. Another chapter deals with CAFOs (factory farms) in detail and Monsanto’s growth hormone troubles in passing. I especially enjoyed her saying this wasn’t just science fiction but actually happening now. Her description of factory farms reminded me of The Meatrix animations.

Michael Pollan was interviewed by Nicki Gostin on “Food Inc.” at Newsweek’s Pop Vox blog and had this to say about Monsanto’s biggest threat:

The movie talks a lot about Monsanto. Can you explain this?
It’s a company that genetically modifies seeds, and they sell a very high percentage of the seeds worldwide now, and they’re gradually consolidating their hold over the world’s seed supply. They don’t want farmers to save seeds. They are great believers in the fact [that] you should come to them every year, and so this age-old tradition of farmers saving a certain amount of seeds for the next year, they’re determined to stamp it out. Now they have the law on their side.

In a recent SALT talk, which you can hear here, Pollan added another intellectual property complaint about GM crops. They can’t be tested for safety and effectiveness without the reports being approved by the company (they’re supposed to increase yield and save the starving billions, recently shown in published field tests to be very wrong).

N. Stephan Kinsella’s footnoted, well reasoned 2008 monograph, Against Intellectual Property, costs $6 printed, but is available to us cheapskates free of charge for immediate download at, and this may surprise some of you, from my kind of anarchists who sometimes have a voice at Mises.org.

If you think law is license plates for bees on Tuesday, underwear having to be worn on the outside on Thursday, and exterminating all red haired, left handed Episcopalians on the Sabbath because the majority was persuaded to vote on those matters, then I think you have a problem.

Kinsella argues that intellectual property is a government created monopoly that can’t be justified on the natural moral law grounds used by some libertarians (for example, a position at odds with J. Neil Schulman’s natural moral law based Logoright essay) and that on economic grounds IP protects established businesses while stifling innovation.

Last year Kinsella addressed Neil’s logoright concept in a blog post.

“So as much as I disagree with Schulman’s justification for “logorights,” the term is a pretty good one–except that it is so arcane. A variation on it using more standard terms might be better: pattern rights, or perhaps innovation rights. Or, to make the label a bit less “neutral,” replace “rights” with “monopolies” or “privileges,” since that is what is being granted by the state. So we have “pattern monopolies” or “pattern privileges,” “innovation rights” or “innovation privileges.” I think I like “pattern monopolies” the best.”

Meanwhile, here are some copyright and patent stories, mostly from Ars Technica: Pirate political parties are celebrating election victories in Europe. And more free spectrum for everyone was proposed. Beyond electronics, data may become chemically processed: Look Ma, No Electricity Infochemistry. Academic source code in computer science is being dragged into the open source debate, because of the way science is supposed to be done. Researchers conclude piracy not stifling content. And finally, British music boss, “We should have embraced Napster.”

8 Responses to “GMO patent infestation”

  1. J. Neil Schulman Says:

    My article “Informational Property: Logorights” begins by specifically disclaiming any state grants of monopoly. The concept stands or falls on its natural-property-rights arguments. Neither Samuel Edward Konkin III or Stephan Kinsella or anyone else has ever successfully answered the challenge I raised in my article, that without the identity of a thing being real enough to make it claimable as property, there would be nothing identifiable existing to be copied in the first place.

    This is not arcane. It’s just being pointedly ignored — and Kinsella’s attempts to change the subject don’t make me forget what I wrote.

  2. Stephan Kinsella Says:

    Neil, I said your term “logorights” is somewhat arcane, not your theory, and there was no disrespect implied.

    I think you are just wrong to assume that “having an identity” is a sufficient condition for being subject to property rights.

    Consider: one has no property right the value of one’s property, as Hoppe and Rothbard have argued (see Sheldon Richman on Intellectual Property versus Liberty); and likewise, one has no property right in the “identity” of one’s property.

    The reason is that owning value, patterns, identify gives you an ownership right in others’ already-owned property. Saying you own the “identity” of a thing you own is another way of saying you own the pattern by which it is arranged–which is a disguised way of saying you have ownership rights in things everyone else owns. The standard Lockean account of property accepted by most libertarians says that the person who appropriates a previously unowned scarce resource becomes its owner. The IP advocate, of which you are one, says that if A thinks of a unique way to use his property or a unique pattern to impose on his own property, this act of intellectual innovation magically gives him partial ownership rights in property already owned by others. It lets you tell B how he can use his own property, even though B is the appropriator and by Lockean principles only B should be the owner. Granting A an IP right just means some of B’s rights of control are transferred to A–it’s a transfer of wealth or property, and it’s incompatible with libertarian property rights.

    The mistake Rand made was thinking “anything you create” is property, without first asking if the thing created is the type of thing that is subject to property in the first place. In fact, creation is neither necessary nor sufficient since if you create some new pattern using others’ property you are not its owner; and if you impose a new pattern on property you own, then you own the transformed thing since you already owned the stuff of which it’s made. A focus on creation as a source of ownership is the mistake made here. Creation is a source of wealth, sure, but not of ownership, since you can only create using things you already own.

    Tibor Machan makes a similar mistake to your “identify” view when he assumes that many “ontological” types of things can be property–the mistake is in assuming that the way we conceptually and terminologically understand the world has some metaphysical basis that translates into property rights. By this view any concept we come up with to “identify” things that is successful, has magically created a new class of property. I find the concept “poem” useful–it is conceptually valid.. poems “have” “identity”–voila, they must be property!

    I don’t agree with this way of making rights depend on what concepts we have or how we identify and understand things in the world. Just because we can call something by a word, or call it a “thing,” does not mean it is ownable. In fact, all ownership rights are enforced in physical terms against scarce resources; which means that granting rights in anything else has to undermine and dilute real rights in real things.

  3. On J. Neil Schulman's Logorights - Economics - Says:

    […] GMO patent infestation, Kent Hastings comments on my IP views and those of J. Neil Schulman. Schulman […]

  4. Austrian Economics Blog » On J. Neil Schulman’s Logorights Says:

    […] GMO patent infestation, Kent Hastings comments on my IP views and those of J. Neil Schulman. Schulman […]

  5. On J. Neil Schulman’s Logorights Says:

    […] GMO patent infestation, Kent Hastings comments on my IP views and those of J. Neil Schulman. Schulman responded: My […]

  6. Science Report » Blog Archive » Is IP Property: Kinsella v. Schulman on "Logorights" and IP Says:

    […] GMO patent infestation, Kent Hastings comments on my IP views and those of J. Neil Schulman. Schulman responded: My […]

  7. Kinsella v. Schulman on Logorights and IP Says:

    […] section of the cross-post on my blog. The original post and the exchange are appended below.On GMO patent infestation, Kent Hastings comments on my IP views and those of J. Neil Schulman. Schulman responded: My […]

  8. J Neil Schulman Says:

    Kent and I watched the movie Food, Inc., together, and while we stand on opposite ends of the question on whether logorights/Media Carried Property/Identity Objects can be owned, we were entirely in agreement that Monsanto was engaging in a legalized campaign of litigious terrorism against farmers whose crops has been invaded and contaminated by Monsanto’s GMO seeds.

    One of these days someone will actually believe me when I say that my advocacy of ownership in created identifiable and discretely separable objects that are one entity with multiple hosts has fuck-all to do with what the French Court, the Congress of the United States and its Librarians, and fascistic state-made corporations like Monsanto have to do with real rights to control the private property one brings into existence.

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