December 16, 2001

Proctor's Gamble

Yellow Bean Patent Owner Sues 16 Farmers and Processors in US

How can monopoly patents threaten food security and the livelihoods of farmers? The controversial Enola bean patent demonstrates the abuses of intellectual property monopoly:

A US patent on a yellow bean variety has disrupted export markets for Mexican bean growers and is now wreaking havoc on small farmers and seed companies in the United States. The patent makes it illegal for unlicensed users in the United States to grow, sell, import, or use the proprietary yellow bean seeds.

Larry Proctor, the president of Pod-Ners seed company (Colorado, USA) and the owner of the controversial US patent on a yellow-colored bean variety, filed a lawsuit on 30 November 2001 against 16 small bean seed companies and farmers in Colorado, claiming that they are violating the patent by illegally growing and selling his yellow "Enola" bean. Proctor holds both a US Patent and a US Plant Variety Protection certificate on the Enola yellow bean.

"We were shocked to be accused of infringing Proctor's intellectual property," said Bob Brunner, President of Northern Feed & Bean, "We've been growing yellow beans from Mexico since 1997 - and they are not Proctor's Enola beans." Brunner told ETC group that his yellow bean seeds come from Sinaloa, Mexico.

Farmer and civil society organizations have condemned the Enola patent as a textbook case of biopiracy because Proctor readily admits that his proprietary bean seed originates from a bag of edible dry beans he purchased in Sonora, Mexico in 1994. In his 1997 application for plant variety protection, Proctor wrote, "The yellow bean, 'Enola' variety is most likely a landrace from the azufrado-type varieties" (which originate in Mexico).

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