As usual, I couldn't disagree with you more. I think you are throwing
the word "unethical" around a bit freely. Obviously, I'm not
talking about people who steal plants, but if a plant is not patented,
which is the legal and ethical way of protecting it from
unauthorized propagation, then once a person sells a plant, and unless
there is a contract such as Ran is considering, the seller has no
right to limit its use.
We have never considered it unethical to buy plants and propagate them
for sale without paying anything to the breeder except his
asking price for the plant. The tc labs are doing it in a different
manner, but I don't see how they are doing anything different than
what all of us who sell hostas have always done. I have never
once considered sending a check to Mildred or the Lachmans or
anyone else for all the the thousands of their plants that I have sold
in the last 25 years. And I doubt that anyone else has either.
labs aren't doing anything different, they're just improved the methods.
All of us that buy tissue culture plants know that the breeders
probably aren't getting anything from our purchase, so if we really
think it's unethical, how can we justify buying the plants to make a
profit. Maybe we should voluntarily send a few cents to Mildred
evertime we sell a Sea Anything. Since any royalties the labs pay
are just going to be tacked on to our price for tc liners, why don't
we just go ahead and send a check to the breeders if we feel so
bad? I'll be waiting for volunteers.
I'm breeding plants for profit just like many of the people who are
complaining about the labs, but if I thought they were doing
something wrong, I'd have to look pretty closely at what I've been
doing all these years.
If a patent is too expensive, there are other ways to protect your plant.
I think the best way is to arrange with a lab to have your
plant propagated under contract. I'm doing it with two labs now
and I suspect that the other labs will do it too. I don't have a written
agreement because I think I can trust the people I'm dealing with.
If you don't, put everything in writing. If you put a plant in today,
will be a year, give or take, before you see anything back. Assuming
that you grow the plant for another year or more before you sell
it, then you have another two years to sell your plants before someone
can buy one, get it to a lab, get it back, and grow on to selling
size. If you limit your sales the first year or two, you can
probably keep it to yourself longer than that. I started selling
privately in 1995. I think I put it in tc in 96, but I'm not
sure, and put it in my catalog in 1997. In the first year or two,
people I wouldn't sell it to, even friends, because it simply wasn't
in my best interest for them to have it. It finally went to Shady
a couple of years ago and is just coming out of the lab this year.
Except for Tony Avent, who got his plants from me, I've had it
myself for six years and I've sold quite a few. I done alright
for myself. Now it's everyone else's turn.
I don't see anything wrong with looking out for yourself, but I'm not
going to whine about other people making a buck off my plants when that's
how I've been making a living for all these years.
Bill Meyer wrote:
A week or so ago Ran asked what we thought about how he should handle his
'Oh My Heart' so as to keep greedy propagators from getting one and TCing
it so that they could make all the money and leave him with nothing. This
has happened so many times in the past, that it is today considered the
norm in the U.S. I ran a search today on the Breeders Rights thing I couldn't
remember then, and the results can be found by clicking below:
It seems that most other developed countries already have legislation in
place to protect the introducer from having his/her plant stolen and produced
and sold without permission by those for whom profit is the only consideration.
The United States does have its Plant Patents, but these are effective
only for plants that will see large-scale introduction, and impractical
for those of us who, like Ran, may come up with an exciting new hosta that
we'd like to make a few dollars on. Many of the large-scale propagators
have had a Wild West mentality in the past of "If I can get my hands on
it, I can do whatever I want with it, and I will if you can't find a way
to stop me". I don't know what to do about it, but it's unethical at best,
and flat-out illegal in many countries. I have heard good things about
the following place, and wonder if anyone here has had dealings with them. http://www.planthaven.com/services.htm
Anyway, I think this situation is becoming worse to the point where it's
almost accepted that if you let a few people buy your plant, it will be
worth $5 within two years. As Ran was told, get what you can fast, because
someone will steal it from you and you'll never see another dollar from
it. This is destroying the high-end collector part of the marketplace as
most savvy buyers know that if it's $150 this year, it will be $20 within
a couple years, once it's been TCed. At Peoria in 1998, the AHS Convention
auction brought in about $27,000, with the top price being $4,100 for 'My
Child Insook'. This year in North Carolina the auction brought in only
$8,000 or so with the top price being only $320, for a new plant called
'Retread' from Frank Nyikos. It is clear that the atmosphere of "get what
you can" lawlessness is starting to impact the Hosta community in a negative
Those who say that no hosta is worth more than the $5 it costs to produce
it are contributing to the problem. Would you say that no painting is worth
more than the canvas-and-paint cost of $20? Or that no piece of music is
worth more than the $1 worth of tape it's recorded on? No. Hostas
are worth what people are willing to pay for them, and that is a lot less
now than it was before unethical propagation and sales practices became
the norm. There isn't a lot we can do until the government passes more
effective laws similar to the Plant Breeders Rights Acts discussed in the
links above, but the next time you're tempted to buy that rare hosta from
a seller that you know shouldn't have it for sale, ask him where he got
one and if any of the money he charges goes to the originator. Ask if he
has an agreement with the originator to sell it. I'm talking about new
plants that are just hitting the market, not the ones that have been around
for years. If Dennis Savory's seedling that was stolen from the nursery
shows up for sale from a retailer, would you buy it if the price was right?
Lot's of us like to complain about the sorry state of affairs in this country,
and now that it's happening right before our eyes in the hosta community
we have decisions to make. If we accept it as the norm, it will become
the norm. If we buy that plant, the seller will have other new plants next
year. If Ran is selling 'Oh My Heart', and someone else gets ahold of one
and starts selling it cheaper, where will you buy one? If it's the cheaper
source, then his business will grow at the expense of those he preys upon.
He will rationalise it as "I'm just selling what people want to buy". The
problem with the rare new plant market is: Do you want one if that's how
it comes to you? If you do, you are part of the problem. Thieves of any
kind can't prosper without customers that are willing to buy what they've