Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Patenting pigs, also selection

Monsanto patents pigs:
In one application (WO 2005/015989 to be precise) Monsanto is describing very general methods of crossbreeding and selection, using artificial insemination and other breeding methods which are already in use. The main "invention" is nothing more than a particular combination of these elements designed to speed up the breeding cycle for selected traits, in order to make the animals more commercially profitable.
Odd. Very odd. I know that patents are written overly broadly so that a company can protect as much as possible. That's fine, and it may be that this will all be tossed out in court.

The question is, why did this get through in the first place? Did no patent examiner see that this was foolishly broad?

Again, they patented a herd of pigs and the sequence of breeding steps necessary to produce them. This isn't a technological invention, it's a hybridized pig. Is this what we're patenting? Techniques that have been in use by humans for millenia, and that have naturally occurred for billions of years? Pigs who could be said to be the actual "inventors," as the ones actually giving birth?