Why? Because the California Table Grape Commission and the USDA hold rights to patents on several varieties of grapes, and are demanding payment from the growers. The growers argue that they were growing these varieties before any patents were granted, thus invalidating the claim.
This is actually a big problem. There have been thousands of patents granted on varieties of plant life since 1963. And as Erika Johnson of HotAir.com writes, this type of central planning is costly.
It is usually argued that patents protect and encourage both investment and innovation. It is generally accepted that in the case of physical designs, it encourages an inventor to work through the many variations required to innovate something new.
However, ‘plant’ patents are a somewhat less clear issue.
Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology corporation, has sued 145 individual farmers found to be in violation of its various plant patents, many of which only possessed traces of Monsanto’s patented plants due to involuntary cross pollination with nearby fields planted with the patented plants.
Additionally, some argue the ‘innovations’ Monsanto patented are doing more harm than good, both as harmful food additives, and via genetically engineered pesticides. In fact, the European Union member states are taking steps to ban GM foods entirely.
When the topic of Monsanto comes up, regulatory proponents claim we ‘need more government regulation’ to ‘stop them’. But the fact of the matter remains that Monsanto only has a monopoly because of government regulation of the agriculture market, by granting exclusive patents on plant life.
Name any past or present monopoly, and you will find either an army or government backing behind it. Without any government or army granted exclusivity, the free market naturally dismantles monopolies.
Back to the grapes. Hopefully these grape growers will be able to convince the court to invalidate these patents, so we can have a glimmer of hope for freedom in the agriculture industry.