Intellectual property, plant breeding and the making of Mendelian genetics

Charnley, B. and Radick, G. (2013) Intellectual property, plant breeding and the making of Mendelian genetics. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A. pp. 1-12.

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Advocates of ‘‘Mendelism’’ early on stressed the usefulness of Mendelian principles for breeders. Ever since, that usefulness—and the favourable opinion of Mendelism it supposedly engendered among breeders— has featured in explanations of the rapid rise of Mendelian genetics. An important counter-tradition of commentary, however, has emphasized the ways in which early Mendelian theory in fact fell short of breeders’ needs. Attention to intellectual property, narrowly and broadly construed, makes possible an approach that takes both the tradition and the counter-tradition seriously, by enabling a more complete description of the theory-reality shortfall and a better understanding of how changing practices, on and off the Mendelians’ experimental farms, functioned to render that shortfall unproblematic. In the case of plant breeding in Britain, a perennial source of lost profits and disputes over ownership was the appearance of individual plants departing from their varietal types—so-called ‘‘rogues.’’ Mendelian plant varieties acquired a reputation for being rogue-free, and so for demonstrating the correctness of Mendelian principles (and the genius of Gregor Mendel), at a time when Mendelians were gradually taking control of the means for distributing their varieties. Mendelian breeders protected their products physically from rogue-inducing contamination in such a way that when rogues did appear, the default explanation—that contamination had somehow occurred—ensured that there was no threat to Mendelian principles.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mendelism; Intellectual property; Plant breeding; W. F. R. Weldon; Rowland Biffen; Rogues
Author Affiliation: Law School, Nathan Campus, Griffith University, Brisbane 4111, Australia
Subjects: Crop Improvement > Genetics/Genomics
Crop Improvement > Seed Technology
Divisions: General
Depositing User: Mr Siva Shankar
Date Deposited: 20 Feb 2013 06:06
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2013 06:06
Official URL:

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