Until recently there were no provisions to entirely prevent growers from saving wheat seed for planting back on their own farm. Now that Pioneer has begun to patent its wheat varieties that has all changed, because patented seed may not be used for plant-back even on a grower’s own land.

If a variety is patented, or contains patented genes, a farmer may not save any seed for planting purposes.

Lack of knowledge that the variety was protected by a patent is no defense. Neither that the variety came up ‘volunteer’ nor that the patented gene was found in saved seed as the result of cross-pollination are defenses to infringement, according to recent information released by North Carolina State University.

Virginia Wheat Specialist Randy Weisz says it’s difficult to know what the basis is for these patents. He suggests growers concerned about planting patented wheat read two online articles, which will clarify some issues. These articles are: “Wheat Varieties in North Carolina Raise Legal Issues,” which can be found at www.smallgrains.ncsu.edu/Varieties/PatentLaws.pdf and “Farmer-Saved Seed: Will It Cost You the Farm or Save You Money,” can be found at www.smallgrains.ncsu.edu/Varieties/Seedlaws.pdf.