Journal of Intellectual Property Law


Genetically modified organisms ("GMOs") play a critical role in technological advances in agriculture. GMOs contribute to generating higher crop yields, reduce the need for pesticide application, and even reduce food waste. Virtually all GMO technologies are developed by a small number of very large agricultural corporations. These corporations are responsible for the vast majority of research and development efforts for agricultural technologies. Agricultural research and development yields technological innovation, which produces better methods of food production. Therefore, the research and development efforts that big ag corporations engage in benefit everyone by providing better methods of food production. However, some critics of big ag suggest that when these corporations hold intellectual property protections on their genetic seed designs, they possess great market power and use it to the disadvantage of farmers and sometimes the agricultural commodities market as a whole. These concerns have led legal scholars to develop two new and innovative tort causes of action that target these corporations: induced nuisance and a “new and improved” trespass to chattels. This Note argues that the proposed innovative tort causes of action are a bad idea because they will ultimately work to undermine the system of intellectual property protections in technological innovations in agriculture. By rejecting the implementation of these proposed causes of action, individual farmers will be held accountable for their own actions and the potential harms that will result from them. Furthermore, this Note argues for implementing a government-funded subsidy supporting agricultural research and development. The subsidy should be made available to entities in the best position to be effective and productive in their R&D efforts, which is most likely the larger agricultural corporations that already have established research and development departments and specialized in the development of genetically modified technologies.