A farmer decides to plant a new potato variety and before he sees any benefit, he encounters a problem because of the patents. The news surprises him when he least expects it. The great North American company PepsiCo has been very quick to claim the rights to this new potato variety which is becoming an exclusive product for one of its snack brands. Thus, the FC5 potato belongs exclusively to the Lays brand and the powerful company is demanding that all those farmers who decide, in the vast majority of cases with total ignorance of this fact, to grow this specific variety, do so.
However, the formulation of these figures and the legal loopholes that may exist, often lead to abusive use and the generation of serious problems for those who have less. In the specific case of the patenting of living beings, plants, it also becomes a threat to the sustainable production of food. What and why are plants patented? In a general way, the plants or seeds that are patented have some particularities that make them special. The genetic sequence that favors certain characteristics such as resistance to disease or climate change makes these species attractive targets for large companies that want to have exclusive use of them.
The power gained by the company is maximum since the patent can be made on the characteristics of a plant. This gives the holder of these rights the option to sue any farmer who grows or sells a product with patented characteristics. The benefit, therefore, comes from the exclusivity in the use of the product but it also derives from the millionaire demands that are made in a very aggressive way in most cases. What is the problem? A farmer who grows a patented product, as in the case mentioned above, can find himself in a serious legal and economic problem whether he is aware or not that the rights of that plant were held by another individual.
However, a greater problem can derive from the natural mutation that occurs in nature without the need for human intervention. If a patent is made, not on the potato but on its particular characteristics of yellow skin and shiny surface, for example. When a farmer encounters a natural mutation in which his X-variety potatoes have developed yellow and shiny skin, he may find himself in the same problem as the farmer in the above example. Some argue that these patents generate income that is subsequently invested in research and development, others, however, consider that nature should be freely usable by all.