Seed Wars: Controversies and Cases on Plant Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property
by Keith Aoki
Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2008 [order]
This book is essential to an understanding of the commodification of plant germplasm from Mendel to Monsanto (actually, the historical breadth extends from pre-history to 2007), and a look forward toward possible solutions.
A few quotes:
“Plant genetic diversity has been an invaluable resource to humans in preserving and developing a reliable food supply, and farmers could openly access germplasm for thousands of years in local and decentralized fashion. Today, that has all changed.”
“…plant genetic diversity is being lost as industrialized agriculture replaces traditional crop strains with increasingly uniform varieties.”
“Genetic engineering in terms of commercial crops necessarily entails decreased genetic diversity, which is detrimental. The uniformity of genetically modified seeds makes them less resistant to disease. Because plants bred from similar strands are all vulnerable to the same pests and diseases, a single instance of disease can spread rapidly, practically unchecked, amongst the entire crop. By contrast, traditional genetically diverse landraces developed their own natural defenses against disease.”
“Do we control our institutions and inventions or do they, like Frankenstein’s monster, control us?”
Aoki died in April 2011 at age 55 – http://www.thepublicdomain.org/2011/04/27/rip-keith-aoki/. Read his book now.