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Student and Professor Partner on Plant Breeder’s Guide
June 11, 2020
Assistant Professor Emily Spiegel recently teamed up with Food and Agriculture Clinic student Cydnee Bence JD'20 to create an innovative guide to intellectual property for plant breeders. Titled A Breed Apart, the resource outlines "defensive publication," a way plant breeders can keep innovations in the public domain. The tool will help breeders support biodiversity and push back against alarming trends in big ag: the consolidation of seed companies, prohibitive patents on genetic resources, and crop diversity loss.
Over the course of a semester, Spiegel laid the framework for the project and connected Bence with the right people. Bence dove into research, pulling from case law, statutes, and input from patent and legislative professionals and plant breeders. She developed charts, explanatory visuals, and a glossary. "I had never written a cover-to-cover guide on anything," Bence said. "Obviously I had to learn a lot about patent law, but I also had to get really familiar with seed breeding, and communicate with stakeholders in different industries."
The work paid off: Published in January, the finished guide is already making waves in the plant breeding world. "It was a learning experience in a lot of ways, and Professor Spiegel was a fantastic mentor and advisor," Bence said. "It feels like a huge accomplishment."