HISTSCI 136 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Jon Beckwith, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, Slippery Slope

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26 Jun 2018
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History of Biotechnology Lecture Notes
Lecture 2: 9/6/16: Plant Patents
What’s the difference between an invention that’s organic and an invention that’s
inorganic?
oAnswers have varied through the years
How did living organisms become property?
oLuther Burbank
oDiamond v. Chakrabarty (1980)
Trajectory of property law has changed greatly because of biotech
Fruits and flowers lead the way for argument about patenting a human gene
What is a patent?
oConstitution allows Congress the power to promote the Progress of Science and
useful arts for inventors
oChanged to: any new invention or improvement (1793)
oBoth stress “new” and “useful” (novelty and utility)
oDoes this language include living things? No
Living organisms were assumed to be unpatentable until the 19th century
Ex Parte Latimer
o1889: someone tried to patent a fiber inside of pine needles
Patent office was rejected
“Not a patentable invention”
Product of Nature Doctrine
oCan’t patent something from the earth
How is a new plant or flower useful? How is it new?
oIs it truly new or improved upon its past state?
The distribution of seeds and plants led to new thought because of railroads allowing
transport
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USDA was founded in 1862 for different reasons than what it does today
oRated the seeds and plants which were distributed
Seed research was federally funded, then became free for distribution
oCitizens are getting back for what they paid for
oWasn’t repealed until 1980
Private breeders began to step in and create a private seed industry
Luther Burbank (1849-1926)
oSports of nature (mutations)
oWas very famous for his day as a “plant wizard”
oRoughly equal to Edison in fame
oHome in Santa Rosa CA was visited by many celebrities
oOver course of career, he made new plants
oBurbank would not receive money from his patents although he sold his seeds
o“Things that live and grow are a law unto themselves”
oLater in life he became upset because he had minimal protection
Biology is reproductive, where property is exclusive
oHow can these situations collide?
Economic ideals
oNo government aid or even protection… therefore you must sell at a high early
price
Contractual ideals
oPerson selling the plant and the person purchasing the plant enter in a contract to
not give away in any form after purchasing
Trademark ideals
oGive the plant a name, then you can use a company name to protect it
oExample: Stark Nursery trademarked an apple, the Golden Delicious apple
oTrademark law does not stop people from selling a different thing under the same
name
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Stark drafts the Plant Patent Act in 1930
oEdison urges tariff protections for farmers as the other inventor’s have
These are the first weeks of the Great Depression
oFarmers had been hit hardest and Congress felt this act would help stimulate the
economy
For something to be patented it has to be described and is put in a public domain
Only asexually reproducing plants, the offspring will then be identical
How much detail is enough to prove?
oA written description of the plant had to be accompanied by a painting of the
plant
oHired thousands of out of work people in the Depression to paint plants
Who decides when one plant is more useful than the other?
oForget it, no more utility clause, now it needs to be distinctive
Breeders can use Hybrid Seeds as a solution
oEx: Hybrid corn is disease resistant but the replanted seeds are horrible
oThis means you have to buy hybrid seeds every year
Hybrid corn is a result of the Plant Patent Act
Early 20th Century: being alive did not make a difference in patenting
Lecture 4: 9/15/16: The Food Wars
GMO’s and shit
What would allow someone from the future to understand our position in food production
right now?
oWhat are people fighting about?
oHistory of the technical object
oSpecific scientific controversy
Manipulating plants over the course of history
oSeeding by hand changed how we grew food
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