A Continuing Discussion about the Seeds and Pods
of Sculptor TJ Mabrey**
"We got along without seeds until about 350 million years ago when evolution finally produced one. Now, with few exceptions, we can’t get along without them.
During the decade I have been creating sculptural seeds and pods in marble and bronze, the impetus behind them has changed, but the fascination endures." TJMabrey
The last in a four-part sculpture series, The Seeds of War, TJ comments on the manipulation of genetics, sponsored by an agrochemical company to produce a seed that once sprouted, will not seed again and will no longer reproduce. DOA Patent Pending is inspired by the February 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bowman vs. Monsanto Co., where Monsanto asserted the company's rights to the generations of seeds that naturally reproduce from its genetically modified strains. Years later, Monsanto produced a soybean, that once sprouted, would not re-seed.
The journey of a 75-year-old Indiana farmer to the highest court in the country began rather uneventfully. Vernon Hugh Bowman purchased an undifferentiated mix of soybean seeds from a grain elevator, planted the seeds and then saved the seeds from the resulting harvest to replant another crop, as many farmers have practiced for generations. Finding that Bowman's crops were largely the progeny of its genetically engineered proprietary soybean seed, Monsanto sued the farmer for patent infringement.
In May 2013, Justice Elena Kagan delivered the unanimous decision of the court, stating that while an authorized sale of a patented item terminates all patent rights to that item, that exhaustion does not permit a farmer to reproduce patented seeds through planting and harvesting without the patent holder's permission. Justice Kagan stated that when a farmer plants a harvested and saved seed, thereby growing a further soybean crop, that action constitutes an unauthorized "making" of the patented product, in violation of the U.S. patent code. Justice Kagan concluded that Bowman could resell the patented seeds he obtained from the elevator, or use them as feed, but that he could not produce additional seeds (that is, crops).
But take a few steps back from the laboratory and the lawbooks, and find there is a discussion to be had about a much deeper question, the appropriate role of ownership and control over the very elements of life: should any corporation, or any person, control or alter a product of life?