Monday, August 29, 2011

Thoughts on version-control and agriculture

Could we use version control methods and techniques to create a "physical strain repository" for creating a distributed workflow for genetic selection which could be licensed under open-source and protected from large corporate machines like Monsanto via GNU or similar licenses?

While watching Food, Inc. the other night, I felt sorry for the soybean farmers who were dominated and regulated by Monsanto's patents. Monsanto produces genetically-modified seeds with extremely favorable characteristics and possesses a patent on their strains. Much has been written on the "evils of patenting food and seeds". I couldn't help but think about how Monsanto's reign over the seed industry is similar to the domination of Microsoft in the software industry of the 90s. Though their monopoly's fall had more to do with the fact that since their software was so ubiquitous it could not reap the benefits of competition. I feel that the rise of open-source software in the early millenium had a large part to play in cultivating a revolution against the corporate machine. Open-source software's ability to flourish is due in large part to the internet and its ability to dissolve geographic boundaries. The selection of seeds from generation to generation has largely been a locally-based operation for millenia. It is not readily possible for a farmer in georgia to view strains of farmers in missouri, there is no coordination for the civilization to organize mass selection in an effective manner.

Could we imagine a world where there exists a physical repository with a protocol for checking-in, checking-out , forking strains of seed? Like a github for organize mass artificial selection? Could we standardize a method of describing quantifiable measurements of seed quality and strain strength and index all forks and repositories? Couldn't we even mirror the actual evolution of a genome with source control? Aren't you in fact, a fork?

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