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AMA with Alan The CEO of Strainly Wed. Oct 3rd 11 AM PST

Just letting y’all know about the article from the Cannabiz Journal on this same topic of Open Source Breeding. This is getting increasing coverage…!

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Continuing the discussion from AMA with Alan The CEO of Strainly Wed. Oct 3rd 11 AM PST:

Alan, what would you say to the argument that while the open source approach of making all plant materials available to all the players in the marketplace appears to solve problems, it flies in the face of both those who truly invent something new or those companies that want to have a competitive advantage over other companies. 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.

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Hi lmoore,

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.

With all due respect, I strongly disagree with this statement. This logic is erroneous in my opinion. First you seem to confuse public domain (which BTW, is where patent-holders tapped their propagation material in the first place…) and Open Source (which sets the terms of use and propagation of a bred cultivar). Second, after 50 years of patent-driven breeding of corn, tomatoes, apples… you name it, we’ve got proof that biodiversity decreased drastically. This very logic belongs to the old and dying world if you ask me.

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 :wink:

Cheers!

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Hi Alan,
Thank you for your reply to my inquiry.
I see that you have taken issue with some of my points, and that you, on principle, oppose patents, and, with your company, uphold open source.
There has been a long standing debate between open source innovation (to get technologies, businesses and industries started) and patent protection (to deliver competitive advantage and monetary growth). In a young industry, like the cannabis industry, it certainly does make sense for open source to have a viable role, especially for small or family companies as I think you suggest. It can allow them to access stable products, brand their goods to develop their name, and in general grow their businesses.
However, for the more inventive companies in the industry it is equally important to be aware of what patents can do to protect and monetize inventions. Patents allow inventors to monopolize their inventions and recoup the costs of invention while also establishing competitive advantage over competition. There is nothing immoral about patenting an invention or about protecting inventions from infringement.
Further, as you make mention of the high costs of patenting, that cost isn’t so very high for a business to undertake, especially if you consider the return on the investment in a patent. The average patent may cost from $15,000 to $35,000 over a period of three years, but if it is well-practiced within four years of its inception it could conservatively be valued at $350,000 – $750,000. Patents grant their inventor a legal monopoly for a 20 year term, thus patent values often grow exponentially and deliver a very high return on their investment. I don’t think that could be said of open source inventions.
I think there is strategic room for both open source and patent protection in the cannabis industry. Your work making open source plants available is notable and of service to the industry. But it is not a service to the industry to suggest that patents have no role in the industry and that there is something immoral about patenting and competing to bring better products into the market.
Over the years, small companies using open source plants for their products will need to compete with other companies. They will naturally seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors by creating new and different products that others cannot copy. They will need to innovate and invent to survive, and they will need to be able to protect their inventions.
Yours,
Lindsay Moore

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With all due respect Lindsay, patenting technologies is one thing, patenting biology is something else.

You’re making a general point about patenting and the corresponding return on investment… which sounds valid. But when it comes to the specificity of patenting living organisms… we should have particular considerations. Living organisms are biodiversity. Acquiring a monopole on biology is always a potential threat to the common good.

It seems hard to justify how someone or a group of people could acquire exclusive rights on biology.

Technology is man-made = patentable. Biology isn’t.

If you could give examples of how plant patents supported biodiversity in the past, I would welcome them…

Thanks for taking the time

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Awesome to have you here Strainly… I hope it will not be just a once presence with you! I have stacked a pile of questions, and now I am trying to find them, lol!

Excuse my ignorance with your site, as I am becoming more familiar with it as I explore. Most of my knowledge is based off foriegn resources.

In this, I havent discovered any viewable genome mapping available. Is this something of an option in the future?

Thank you!:cowboy_hat_face:

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Hi Alan,

        Thank you for your reply to my inquiry.

        I see that you have taken issue with some of my points, and that you, on principle, oppose patents, and, with your company, uphold open source.

There has been a long standing debate between open source innovation (to get technologies, businesses and industries started) and patent protection (to deliver competitive advantage and monetary growth). In a young industry, like the cannabis industry, it certainly does make sense for open source to have a viable role, especially for small or family companies as I think you suggest. It can allow them to access stable products, brand their goods to develop their name, and in general grow their businesses.

However, for the more inventive companies in the industry it is equally important to be aware of what patents can do to protect and monetize inventions. Patents allow inventors to monopolize their inventions and recoup the costs of invention while also establishing competitive advantage over competition. There is nothing immoral about patenting an invention or about protecting inventions from infringement.

Further, as you make mention of the high costs of patenting, that cost isn’t so very high for a business to undertake, especially if you consider the return on the investment in a patent. The average patent may cost from $15,000 to $35,000 over a period of three years, but if it is well-practiced within four years of its inception it could conservatively be valued at $350,000 – $750,000. Patents grant their inventor a legal monopoly for a 20 year term, thus patent values often grow exponentially and deliver a very high return on their investment. I don’t think that could be said of open source inventions.

I think there is strategic room for both open source and patent protection in the cannabis industry. Your work making open source plants available is notable and of service to the industry. But it is not a service to the industry to suggest that patents have no role in the industry and that there is something immoral about patenting and competing to bring better products into the market.

Over the years, small companies using open source plants for their products will need to compete with other companies. They will naturally seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors by creating new and different products that others cannot copy. They will need to innovate and invent to survive, and they will need to be able to protect their inventions.

        Yours,

        Lindsay Moore
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