One of the main goals of starting the gratitude gardens was to empower people around the world to learn about biodiversity and participate in protecting it. If you've ever seen Food Inc. or Future of Food, you've probably been frustrated at how powerful and shortsighted certain huge multinational agribusiness firms are.
When I first saw Future of Food, I wanted to go outside and do something about it. The way that Monsanto, Dupont, and Cargill conduct themselves on the international stage is shameful, and downright terrifying. They're trying to force their chemically reliant and genetically modified products into sustainable loops around the world, and using every dirty trick in the book to do it. Just read Stolen Harvest if you want an inside perspective on their shady dealings in Africa, India, and Latin America. In many countries, farmers would rather burn their crops than become slaves to unscrupulous corporations.
So what can you do about it? Well, surprisingly alot. One of the things that prevents agribusiness firms from being able to patent a seed or technology is something called 'public disclosure'. When I first came up with the idea for Gratitude Gardens, where people around the world would document and share heirloom and landrace crops from their local climate, I was concerned that one of these industrial farming companies would abuse the information we gathered in the way that they abuse seed banks.
I consulted a trademark and patent lawyer, and was extremely happy to hear that by posting these seeds and crops on an internet forum, that counts as 'public disclosure'. Companies will be less likely or able to patent a seed that has been disclosed, as it would be next to impossible to file or defend a challenge to their patent if they can't demonstrate that they generated the intellectual property.
The lawyer also suggested having an intellectual property forum on the Gratitude Garden website, and offered his services in protecting the rights of those who post their content on there. While the primary goal of the competition and game of Gratitude Gardens is to inspire people to explore their heritage and to cultivate and share exciting and delicious crops, its awesome to know that in doing so we'll be protecting this valuable genetic diversity from biopiracy.