Monsanto takes home $23mln from small farmers, seeks to maintain 'seed oligarchy'
Seed giant Monsanto has won more than $23 million from hundreds of small farmers accused of replanting the companyâ€™s genetically engineered seeds. Now, another case is looming â€" and it could set a landmark precedent for the future of seed ownership.
The lawsuits concern Monsantoâ€™s patent rights as the company strives to prevent farmers from replanting crops grown from the companyâ€™s seeds. Itâ€™s a concept that a study published on Tuesday â€" titled 'Seed Giants vs. US Farmers' â€" referred to as creating a â€œseed oligarchy.â€
In the report, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) said it discovered 142 patent infringement suits against 410 farmers and 56 small businesses in more than 27 states as of December 2012. The amount of money pocketed by Monsanto comes to a whopping $23 million. The study was co-produced by the Save our Seeds (SOS) campaign.
Another case is now on the horizon, and itâ€™s drawing wide public attention: The verdict of the trial will determine who controls the rights to seeds planted in the ground.
It will also determine whether patent owners of other products which can make copies of themselves â€" such as stem cells and strains of bacteria used for medical research â€" and can continue to control the use of their products after selling them. Itâ€™s a scenario that wasnâ€™t even considered until recently.
â€œWeâ€™re dealing with laws and doctrines that were developed in the 19th century, where the idea of self-replicating technologies didnâ€™t exist,â€ Jorge Contreras, associate law professor at American University in Washington told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Itâ€™s been dubbed a 'David and Goliath' trial by many, as multi-billion-dollar Monsanto goes head to head against 75-year-old Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman, who said that fighting for justice is his main concern.
â€œI really donâ€™t consider it as David and Goliath,â€ Bowman told the Guardian. â€œI donâ€™t think of it in those terms. I think of it in terms of right and wrong.â€
At the center of the case is Monsantoâ€™s protection of its patented soybean, known as Roundup Ready. When farmers like Bowman plant the companyâ€™s seeds, they are only allowed to harvest the resulting crop â€" not keep any for next yearâ€™s harvest.
Under these rules, farmers have to buy new Monsanto seeds to plant each season, even if they already have usable seeds in their possession.
However, farmers are able to buy excess soybeans from local grain elevators, many of which are likely to be Roundup Ready seeds. One of Bowman's trips to such a grain elevator put him in Monsantoâ€™s sights.
â€œWe have always had the right to go to an elevator, buy some â€˜junk grainâ€™ and use it for seed if you desire,â€ Bowman explained.
But the question of whether he really does have that right is still up in the air. and will be determined by a Supreme Court judge.
Monsanto has claimed it maintains patent rights on its genetically modified seeds, even if sold by a third party such as a grain elevator. The company also said this protection extends for generations down, which means it owns seeds that are 'descendants' of original Monsanto seeds.
The company wasted no time suing Bowman, eventually winning a legal settlement of around $84,456 in 2011. Unwilling to back down, Bowman took the case to the Supreme Court. Though trials are expensive, it was Bowmanâ€™s lack of cash that prompted him to take the case to Americaâ€™s highest court, ironically.
When Monsanto originally sued Bowman, he was already bankrupt as a result of land deal gone wrong, so he had very little to lose. â€œI made up my mind to fight it until I could not fight it anymore,â€ he said. â€œI thought, I am not going to play dead.â
The Supreme Court trial is scheduled for February 19.
Genetically Modified Foods in America | Health Documentary
Video Documentary >>
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Organisms that have been genetically modified include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, insects, plants, fish, and mammals. GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods, and are also widely used in scientific research and to produce goods other than food. The term GMO is very close to the technical legal term, 'living modified organism' defined in the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates international trade in living GMOs (specifically, "any living organism that possesses a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology").
This article focuses on what organisms have been genetically engineered, and for what purposes. The article on genetic engineering focuses on the history and methods of genetic engineering, and on applications of genetic engineering and of GMOs. Both articles cover much of the same ground but with different organizations (sorted by organism in this article; sorted by application in the other). There are separate articles on genetically modified crops, genetically modified food, regulation of the release of genetic modified organisms, and controversies.
GMOs are nothing but corporate control of the food supply. Make the sheeple sick, and then Big Pharma steps in. Government Mind control at its' finest. They don't supply larger crops as has been told, the FDA only required a 90 study for approval on the health aspect, and in fact, many farmers in various parts of the world are thinking about going back to conventional seeds because of all the problems with GMO seeds. Just say NO to GMO!!!