Sep 19, 2017
Settlement reached in strawberry suit involving UC Davis

A lawsuit over the strawberry breeding program at UC Davis – the wellspring of about half of California’s strawberry crop – is history.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the university on Sept. 15 settled a lawsuit against two berry breeders who quit UC Davis, formed their own company and began developing new strawberry varieties without the school’s permission. The scientists can continue using some of the strawberry plants they developed at UC Davis, but have to return others. They also will forfeit $2.5 million in royalty payments they stand to collect from the university for work they did at Davis.

According to the newspaper’s account:

The lengthy dispute has been closely watched in the food industry. California’s $1.9 billion-a-year strawberry crop accounts for more than 80 percent of the nation’s supply. About half of the berries grown in California are grown with seeds developed in UC Davis’ greenhouses.

Over a two-decade run, UC Davis plant breeders Douglas Shaw and Kirk Lawson bred new generations of plumper and sweeter strawberries that boosted sales and helped cement California’s leadership in the business. While many of the largest strawberry growers breed their own varieties, including Driscoll Strawberry Associates of Watsonville, the UC varieties have been licensed by major brands like Dole and California Giant, as well as many independent farmers.

The strawberry breeds have generated tens of millions of dollars for the University of California, and Shaw and Larson have earned millions themselves through a royalty-sharing arrangement.”

For more on the court ruling finding in favor of UC Davis, see this May 2017 Vegetable Growers News report.

 

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