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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Regents Sue to Protect SDSU-Patented* Wheat Seeds

AgWeek notes that the South Dakota Board of Regents and South Dakota State University are already acting more like Monsanto (on whose board sits SDSU president Dr. David Chicoine). Evidently the Regents (i.e., us, South Dakota tax- and tuition-payers) are suing five producers for illegally selling or offering for sale the spring wheat varieties Traverse and Briggs. Said wheat varieties were developed by SDSU researchers and remain intellectual property of the university.

The Regents are suing under the Plant Variety Protection Act, the same law Monsanto uses to intimidate farmers to keep them from saving seeds and to protect its profits. SDSU says the suit's primary goal is to "support farmers who rely on the continued development of better wheat varieties for their farming success"—in other words, make sure dealers pay the proper fees that trickle back to SDSU to support more research.

So remember, farmers: those seeds in your field don't really belong to you... well, at least not for 20 years. You're just licensing them, like software from Microsoft.

*patented? Well, not exactly: PVP is an alternative to the official patent system, but it's a similar intellectual property protection mechanism.


  1. SDSU is a public university, not an investor-owned corporation, but you sure can't tell from this lawsuit. Thanks, Cory, for bringing this to light.

  2. Cory, I believe one difference between the PVPA and the laws used by Monsanto to protect their GMO varieties is the PVPA allows farmers to save seed they grow to use on their own farm. SDSU's action appears to be against farmers who sold seed. If they had used the seed for their own purposes, it would be OK.
    I know a lot of registered seed dealers including Leo Warrington quoted in the attached story and they have the future of seed development and public development at heart.
    I would like to know the back story about this to find out what SDSU and the South Dakota Crop Improvement Association did about this situation leading up to the lawsuit.
    Thanks for bringing this story forward.


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