beaker of money

In the next few posts, I’m going to look at intellectual property rights in biotechnology and corporate influence over science. There are huge, philosophical issues to grapple with here, to wit: Should we even allow ownership of organisms? When it turns out that there are Monsanto crops growing in an organic farmer’s field (accidentally?), who is at fault? What’s the effect of corporations funding university research and patenting the discoveries of public scientists? As I’ve been doing, I’m going to focus on one sliver at a time, building toward bigger answers post by post.

You may have heard that companies place draconian licensing agreements on their genetically engineered seeds. In the same way that using software presumes you accept a raft of terms and conditions, using GM seeds generally means that you’re bound by a complex contract [PDF]. Scientists have said that these patent restrictions keep them from accurately testing GE seeds. However, the biotech companies claim that they cooperate with independent scientists and support objective research. So where’s the truth here?