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Blockchain and GPL - the solution for biodiversity

Having read through the previous posting on biodiversity and the risk of big corporations coming in and patenting cultivars etc… it did occur to me that the Open Source Software movement is not that dissimilar in that it promotes a healthy and diverse software market where under the GPL licensing which is an industry standard people can do certain things with the software at no cost, usually for personal and non commercial usage. There are standard terms if you wish to make alterations to the original and sell it, or if you wish to use the products for commercial gain.

Taking blockchain technology into account we start to have a potentially interesting solution to protecting the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of the originator. To use the blockchain technology in this manner is something that is already being looked into, there are a number of IP legal firms implementing solutions.

So how would this work for the cannabis industry?

The underlying blockchain technology is able to provide a immutable record, so once a validated entry is made into the ledger it is not possible to alter it (ok so this depends on how it is implemented but on the most part it can not be changed). Within the blockchain world there is the concept of Smart Contracts these can contain all sorts of information and can be used in a variety of situations, from insurance through to buying and selling houses.

So it is possible to store a digital DNA fingerprint of the strain along with the supporting data, who created it, date of creation, parents strains, flowering times and any other relevant information. It would also include any variation to the standard GPL license terms.

OK so now we have a list of validated and verified strains in a blockchain ledger, so how does this help? Well everything listed on the blockchain can be used by everyone. If you are a commercial operation, then you should be able to grow and clone to your hearts content, only when a commercial operation decides to use the strain in their own cross will they need to adhere to the terms of the GPL for that strain. This could range from simply acknowledging the original parents strains to a payment if required. The payment information all stored in the blockchain along with the acknowledgement of the payment being made. A key part of the GPL would be that any strains created using inputs from strains on the GPL list must be added back onto the blockchain and be GPL “compliant”.

Key to the success of this is that ownership cannot be changed, this prevents big corporations buying up the strains, in inevitable event of the original owner passing on the strain goes completely into the open public domain and freely available. Like everything it does require people to participate to make it worthwhile, and right now there are some prohibitive costs such as DNA fingerprinting although those costs are coming down.

Well that is my 2 cents worth on the topic and I would love to discuss this further with out tech minded individuals. Hey maybe there could be the GrowersNetwork blockchain register of strains.