I intended my example for this week’s blog question to be a textual artifact in digital form (truly, I did!) but my mind kept returning to artifacts neither print nor digital in form: seeds. This has something to do with Adrian Johns’ statement on policing intellectual property: “Efforts to uphold intellectual property against piracy take place in all areas of today’s economy, but they are most prominent in three: media, pharmaceuticals, and agriculture” (499). This statement resonated with me, in part, because I am part of a group starting a seed library in Cobourg. Last weekend I was promoting the project at our local annual seed exchange and was questioned by a visitor about seed copyrights and whether or not what we were proposing to do was legal. I didn’t have an answer because it was something I had only considered in abstract terms. You hear about the large-scale-agri-business farmer in the states being sued by Monsanto for saving seeds, but I had never really considered the possibility that any one at that seed exchange would be violating copyright laws. We were not (as far as I know) as heirloom, untreated, open-pollinated seeds are what people are interested in, but what would happen if someone donated copyrighted soybean seed containing copyrighted pesticide to the library? It is improbable, but it is possible. This exchange really made me question my assumptions about what I own when it comes to my food and food production. I am determined to educate myself further on the subject.
If anyone is interested in the topic of intellectual property rights and seeds from the perspective of advocates for seed sovereignty, there is a free webinar on the subject happening on March 30. The panelists include Ann Slater of the National Farmers Union, Julie Dawson of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Jack Kloppenburg of the Open Source Seed Initiative. It is currently full, but the materials will be posted to the site the following week. It can be found here: http://seedfreedom.info/events/webinar-seed-freedom-intellectual-property-rights/
Johns, A. (2009). Piracy: the Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates. Chicago: U of Chicago P.