RiceTec Paddy Whack

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Janicke notes that 45 percent of U.S. patents are found invalid when challenged in the courts, but RiceTec's has not been taken to court to date. For one thing, such a legal challenge is enormously expensive and beyond the means of most nongovernmental entities.

But until the patent office overturns RiceTec's patent, or the current structure of world trade changes, Shiva plans to continue the fight, with grassroots protests in Alvin, loosely organized boycott manifestos circulating on the Web, and a proposed postcard campaign to supermarkets and food outlets.

And in the meantime, RiceTec is gearing up for the launch, next year, of a new hybrid rice seed, the first of several patent-pending new hybrids in the RiceTec pipeline. The hybrid, according to RiceTec, will reduce farmers' production costs by 15 percent and require less land than currently available seeds.

"That's something," Andrews says, without much hope, "that environmentalists should like."

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Brad Tyer