I admit to being more than a little disappointed that Siegers Seed Co. is already playing hardball over its claim to own exclusive rights to the wart trait in cucurbits. The company evidently sent a threatening letter to Rupp Seed Company on January 12th warning that they would seek damages if Rupp didn’t cease any and all marketing, development and sales efforts at this time … once Siegers’ patent on warts was approved.
The problem with patent pending in this case is that Siegers seems to have figured out a way to own a common cucurbit gene for several years, at the very least, by tying it up in what appears to be a bogus patent application. So even if it turns out that the patent is not awarded, by the time all of the appeals and the like are completed, Siegers can threaten other companies with action, while selling wart-gene containing seeds exclusively until the case is finally settled.
Here are some facts about cucurbit warts:
1. The warted gourds were considered to be a "race" of Cucurbita pepo already in 1786.
2. Warted pumpkins 'Nantucket' and 'Brazilian Sugar' were described by numerous authors in the 19th century. According to Harry Paris, cucurbit expert and author, Bailey’s (1902) Cyclopedia of American Horticulture, pp. 1711–1713, has an illustration of 'Nantucket'. And Zhiteneva (1930) The World's Assortment of Pumpkins. Trudy Prikl. Bot. Genet. Selek. 23: 157 – 207 has photographs of numerous warted pumpkins.
3. Warted gourds of Cucurbita pepo have a history dating to 1587.
4. The Essai sur l'histoire naturelle des courges is the definitive scientific paper on the three major species of Cucurbita. This book was published in 1786 in French. You'll find a translation of Duchesne's 1786 description of Cucurbita pepo in H. S. Paris’s book, The drawings of Antoine Nicolas Duchesne for his natural history of the gourds, published in 2007 by the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.
Here is Paris’s translation of what Duchesne had to say about warts and Cucurbita pepo: Another state of alteration is what one names warts,& which would better be designated by the name of Bumps, since they are not purely exterior excrescences, but elevations of the shell, which form within as many corresponding pits, although less in proportion, considering that the shell there is of a much greater thickness. These bumps are of two kinds: sometimes wide near the base and little elevated, they mimic transitory pimples springing from the rind by accident; sometimes higher and constricted at the base, they assume the shape of knobs; sometimes they accumulate one on top of the other, as if they lack for space. And I had the opportunity to recognize that this deformity indicates a true state of disorder, since the fruits in which it is carried to such excess do not have a single good seed, but only some imperfect rudiments.
5. Warts are conferred by a single dominant gene designated Wt, non-warted plants are wt/wt. Reference: Paris, H.S. and R.N. Brown. (2005). The genes of pumpkin and squash. HortScience 40: 1620–1630.
Take a look at the Siegers webstite to discover what seeds they sell to your favorite growers … and if you care about this warty gene grab, ask your growers to avoid planting Siegers’ seeds.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.
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