Thanks for your question.
Before trying to answer as honestly as possible, can I ask a few questions?
What is “inventing something truly new” when what you are doing is using nature’s abundance (free of charge in the first place) and just giving it a nudge?? Have you truly invented something when you cross 2 kinds of apples to make a new kind? Did you invent apples?
While patents are not necessarily bad, this whole thing of patenting plants is simply a confiscation (acquiring exclusive rights over) of some of mother nature’s gift. If you come up with a whole new process to breed plants, you may patent that breeding technique, but patenting the genetics themselves… we just don’t believe in it. We actually think it’s a fraud and a threat to cannabis patients (with an “i”), who need many diverse combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes (which we have yet to discover all the benefits).
Plant patents have been issued in the conventional farming world for the past 50 years. The result? from hundreds of corn varieties you can still find in South America, there are only 4 left in North America, all patented. Are they the best tasting and richest in nutrients? Nope. They are the most resistant to pest, chemicals and transportation… the most profitable. Same applies to almost all fruits and vegetables you can think of… It this legal? YES. Is this ethical? NO. If you think it is, just imagine doing this to animals or… humans…
Farmers growing those patented plants are too often captive to these genetics. Consumers eating those produces are not absorbing the best nutrients. It was observed that the average concentration in nutrients found in fruits and vegetables actually dropped dramatically over the past decades (studies made by dept. of research in different universities in Europe). So the quality of the product is not even better…
We think that companies wanting to have a real competitive advantage over their competitors should keep breeding new strains, and differentiate themselves through innovation. In such a context, the small producer/breeder has a chance to win… or at least to live and contribute to a vibrant market.
When you obtain patents, you simply buy a temporary monopole, defeating the incentive to innovate. When patent-driven breeding is the dominant model, the number of varieties decreases (it’s an observed fact), simply because you can’t defend an unlimited number of patents at the same time, even when you have a lot of cash, it doesn’t make financial sense. In a patent-driven industry, genetics are streamlined, concentration becomes inevitable, as actors absorb or get absorbed through IP-driven acquisitions.
Like we explain in our articles (see below link to our blog), this model doesn’t work for small-scale craft growers. It kills them. We believe cannabis legalization must empower family businesses. Such businesses do not have the resources to enforce patents, so it doesn’t make any sense for them to apply for patents in the first place.
Additionally, because of consumers’ strain awareness and appetite for new flavors, we believe that such a patent-driven model is incompatible with the cannabis industry. It will take some years for companies going the patent route to realize that introducing new strains is a much more effective way to secure market shares than trying to milk the same patented strain for years while trying to lock farmers in.
You wrote “When everything is in the public domain, free for all to use, every company is selling the same products and they become homogenized. In this case, there is no motivation to innovative new products, build a growing business, a famous brand, or for consumers to distinguish one company from another. In this sense, open source breeding ironically leads not to biodiversity, but to a uniform generic set of products that all companies are selling into what becomes a stagnant marketplace.”
As a matter of fact, the Open Source model is the informal/underground but prevalent model in the prohibition context. Did you see an increase or decrease in the number of cultivars offered on the market during the prohibition years? We saw a significant increase everywhere we looked…
Open Source Breeding maintains a vast pool of diverse genetics to tap into, in order to create and stabilize always more combinations of genes. When done properly (like many breeders do), and when a conservation effort is collectively undertaken, biodiversity keeps growing, simply because finding that rare and desired phenotype will reward you… through the market.
Go to your grocery store and tell me if Walmart sells different fruits and vegetables than their competitors… oh well, there are actually not many competitors left, once the entire supply chain consolidated due to lack of differentiation and commoditization of produces… leaving a few cents per pounds to farmers who are subsidized with tax-payer money in EVERY developed country where patented varieties are prevalent.
The current market of fruits and vegetables is quite stagnant, but this is changing with the return of heirloom and ancient varieties. The cannabis industry doesn’t have to repeat the same mistakes. We are ahead, we can become a model to follow for the entire food production sector.
We believe that any cannabis farmer patenting strains they bred… is simply doing the paperwork for chemical companies to takeover…
I encourage you to visit our blog where you can hopefully find some inspiration