The Golden Rice AstraZeneca saga is a case study in public science's failure to understand and address patent issues. In justifying their surrender of Vitamin A enriched GM rice to the giant corporation, the researchers claim they couldn't navigate the 70+ intellectual and tangible property conflicts that could potentially scuttle their work. There are likely no more than 11 - and possibly as few as 4, patent conflicts and one outstanding tangible property issue. A public sector group - including the people Golden Rice is intended to help - should meet to debate all the options and alternatives. The contract and the events surrounding it should be investigated.
When shareholders confirm this week that the agricultural divisions of AstraZeneca and Novartis will indeed merge under the new name, 'Syngenta,' they will probably be talking more about their market prospects for GM crops in the North than about the needs of poor farmers and malnourished consumers in the South. More of the discussion will be about the opportunities created with the coming together of the two enterprises' Terminator and Traitor patents than about Vitamin A deficiency in Asia. But, according to RAFI's Research Director, Hope Shand, 'Syngenta had better be giving some serious thought to its deal on Golden Rice - and quickly, or they could have a major embarrassment on their hands.'