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What Kind of Future Is This? The Patenting of PB&J


No matter where you find yourself positioned in the country's political clime, unless you're one of the nation's wealthiest, you can most likely concur that we're in somewhat of a bleak national moment. Boosting our economic standing appears to be a prioritized agenda item for most of us, but with it comes restraint and discipline as we grow into what can hopefully become a more responsible nation. Cutting corners doesn't have to be as painful as it sounds though—the DIY, homemade, less-is-more philosophy is eking its way into mainstream culture in record numbers. Are corporations concerned that you'll stop spending money on frivolous items like frozen pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Surely we can hope so. How ridiculous is corporate greed going to have to get before it changes for good?

In September, GOOD magazine's Peter Smith reported on the patenting of a crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The idea was born in the mid-1990s and like any good American rags-to-riches story, the duo that dreamed up the product sold their idea to the Smucker's corporation who filed for a patent on the 'invention' because of proprietary methods used in making the frozen, crustless sandwich (which involved encasing the jelly in peanut butter so the sandwich didn't get soggy) and earned Smucker's more than $15 million in less than two years on the market. And in pure corporate greed fashion, infringement lawsuits were filed against another peanut butter and jelly sans crusts maker in Michigan who had been making a similar sandwich for years (as had most Moms in America for decades). But upon further investigation by the patent office, Smucker's patent was ultimately rejected for not actually being all that novel. Surprise.

But the story is not that uncommon, and, is more problematic than actually symbolic of America's most cherished freedoms. Smith writes, "The story of the patented PB&Js is a convenient parable for the vast overreach and rampant abuse of intellectual property in the United States. Even the recent America Invents Act, signed earlier this month by President Obama, won’t stop some of the more questionable patents."

From the Organic Authority Files

From a health perspective, foods that are patented tend to involve processing or synthetic ingredients. If we're indeed moving towards a nation more responsible with our economic system and our truest wealth—the health of our people—then isn't focusing on fresh, hand-prepared whole foods the logical choice over processed factory-made, genetically modified, foodlikestuffs that only really ever serve the health of the corporate bank account?

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image:Benson Kua

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