Restrictive Monsanto Seed Contracts Investigated

An AP investigation examines the cofidential contracts between Monsanto, which makes 90% of the world’s genetically engineered seeds, and the famers and smaller seed companies it bends to its will with extremely restrictive licensing agreements.

With its near-total market dominance, when Monsanto decides to raises prices, as they did by 25% last year, we all just have to swallow it.

AP INVESTIGATION: Monsanto seed biz role revealed

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  1. lannister80 says:

    A farmer who didn’t buy licensed and restricted seeds has every right to do with his harvest what he damn well pleases. He bought the seed, he owns or leases the land, he planted it, fertilized it, applied herbicide to the weeds around it, harvested it, and insured it against hail, fire, and drought. He owns what he takes out of the field that he grew, and he can eat it, sell it, burn it, or use it.

    The guy who buys Monsanto’s seeds and signs a no reseeding contract gave up some of his rights in the contract. He didn’t give up his neighbor’s rights, as those aren’t his rights to give up.
    The farmers who don’t buy patented GM seeds aren’t trespassing onto the land of those who do and stealing pollen. The wind (yes, wind — corn is self-pollinating or wind-pollinated as often as pollinated by bees) or bees do that naturally. The unnatural pollen many farmers consider dangerous crud actually invades non-GM farms and perverts their botanically hybridized crops. For that, should Monsanto be the plaintiff or the defendant?

    If Monsanto is so concerned about their unnatural crops cross-pollinating other corn and beans, then they should GM it to keep it from doing that. It’s not the fault of people trying to avoid it that the wind blows.

    That’s like running over a kid in a crosswalk while the walk sign is lit and suing the kid for being there because he dented your car. The kid’s doing what he’s supposed to do, you’re infringing on his space, and then you blame him. That’s what Monsanto is doing.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      They claim it is engineered so that that CAN’T happen, so any farmers whose crops get hybridized must be “stealing” from Monsanto. Many of their GM crops were only allowed in the first place with assurances there’d be no “drift.”

    • shepd says:

      If you’re talking about the Canadian that Monsanto sued, check Wikipedia for the facts on the case, I think you’ll be surprised. The farmer knew about the roundup ready corn that had ended up on his field, he managed to save a bunch of seeds for the purpose planting it “just in case”, and did, in fact, plant it across his entire crop the next year. He knew well in advance of the agreements the farmers around him had made, and knew he was violating them.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto_Canada_Inc._v._Schmeiser

      Nevertheless, while the judges ruled against him, because he never actually sprayed the new crops with roundup and did not have to pay any money to Monsanto, legal bills and all.

      You could liken this to a machinist finding that someone had left a knowingly patented engine at his shop and the machinist copying it because it is a special property he likes (Let’s say it runs very well on alcohol, and he happens to have a large supply). He then decides to make use of the engines in a brewery with the intent that if he runs out of gas, he can feed them with alcohol. In Canada, that’s illegal. And it’s not much different from what this farmer did.

      Had the machinist only used the one engine he was given, or Schmeiser only used the crops that had seeded themselves, both would be in the right and Canadian law would protect them.

      When you run a business you should take steps to gain the appropriate knowledge of things that are legal and not with regards to it.

      The only dissenting judge dissented not on the basis of whether or not the mechanics of patent law apply to a farmer in this situation, but rather whether or not plants can be patented (In Canada, “higher lifeforms” may not be patented–but, seriously, is corn a higher lifeform?).

      • joshuadavis says:

        Just because that is what the courts say happened doesn’t make it truth. Monsanto has friends everywhere – even as Clarence Thomas, former employee of Monsanto on the Supreme Court. So I won’t necessarily believe what this article says.

        …And since when did Wikipedia become a source to cite?

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          Monsanto’s also brought multiple suits in the U.S. against farmers who merely suffered drift. There’s not just the one suit.

        • shepd says:

          You’re right, Wikipedia isn’t a perfectly reliable source. I linked it for the convenience of readers. However, if you’d rather read the decision in its entirety straight from the Canadian government themselves for yourself:

          http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2001/2001fct256/2001fct256.html

          If the courts aren’t about discovering the truth, what’s the point of their existence? If you have that little faith in the justice system, time to revolt against the government before they lock you up (or, if you’re American, murder you) based on lies. This is a decision from the supreme court. By the time you get there all the bullshit should have been boiled out of the argument and you should be left with nothing more than truth.

        • RogerTheAlien says:

          THANK YOU! People quote it like it’s gospel. And at what point do you say, “Whoa, hey…any dumbass who can put together a plausible-sounding sentence can edit this. Maybe I shouldn’t quote it as 100% credible.” Gah! This is becoming a trend that I can’t stand. To me, it’s as bad as high-schoolers trying to turn in term papers written in LOL OMG text lingo. Plus, it just bolsters my support that most people are idiots.

      • Xzigraz says:

        Come on, I fully respect other people’s intellectual property but there is times that things can’t not be patented. For example, food. For example, even if I don’t want to buy these patented seeds but somehow my crops are being polluted by them. This keeps happening and in the end, the only seed left will be these patented seeds. So anybody doesn’t want to use these seeds don’t have the right to grow food anymore? This is a bullshit law to allow seeds to be patented.

        • shepd says:

          If your crops are polluted by these seeds, the decision permits you to farm just as you always would have. There is nothing illegal in selling roundup ready crops if you didn’t purposely plant them, as long as once you are aware of them being roundup ready you don’t spray roundup without the intent of killing off your crop (which is would would normally happen). You would even be able to use seed from these crops as long as, again, you didn’t purposely select only roundup ready corn seed and it was in your seed mix in proportion to the percentage of your current crop that was “taken over”.

          Also, the patent lasts 17 years from inception. Assuming it somehow managed to become so prevalent that there were nothing else but roundup ready corn to purchase, the maximum amount of time we’re talking about here is a few more years. But it isn’t like that, and I don’t think it is possible in the space of 17 years for an entire field to be taken over by this corn just through “mistakes”, apart from possibly a truck full of the stuff exploding beside your farm.

          In summary:

          Right to grow as if you weren’t using round up ready corn with round up ready corn remains, as long as you don’t cultivate only the roundup ready corn (ie: You don’t show intent to use the properties of roundup ready corn).

          In 17 years, all farmers will be happy to use roundup ready corn that can be germinated like Schmeiser’s because it won’t cost extra, but the benefits will be there.

      • Dont lump me into your 99%! says:

        He sprayed the roundup around the poles, just has he did every year. When it did not kill the crop around the poles, he sprayed more.

        A seed truck had dumped (if I remember right from Food, Inc), and those seeds polluted his crop. Monsanto has threatened hundreds of farmers, and forced many to pay licensing fee’s.

        What they do is BS, and I really hope it gets stopped.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    Are non-genetically engineered seeds cheaper or do farmers have to buy engineered one’s out of necessity i.e. bigger kernels, pest resistant, drought resistant?

    • frari489 says:

      I recently watched the movie “Food, Inc.” (interesting documentary) which talked quite a bit about Monsanto.

      Their soybean seeds have a gene making them resistant to the herbicide roundup, thus making weed control much easier.

      • Jfielder says:

        Same goes for Roundup Ready Corn….

        The ridiculous thing about this is if you use Monsanto RR beans one time, you have to use them forever… When crops are harvested, the machines used are very messy, they will drop beans or corn kernals all over the place. They will grow the next season, and you can’t kill them with roundup… Then you’re techinically breaking your contract with monsanto if you aren’t buying their beans that year.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      Bigger harvest. Drought resistance. Herbicide and Insecticide engineering, etc.

      Average crop loss in the non-developed world (and for most of human history) is around 50% to pests, damage, etc. Average crop loss in the developed world, with pesticides and fertilizers and so forth has historically been around 30%. That number has been creeping up in recent years as bugs evolve resistance to pesticides, fertilizers are less effective (soil can be like a crack whore, requiring more and more fertilizer to get the same high) and/or more expensive (fertilizer requires massive fossil fuel input). In corn country crop loss is around 40% and climbing, and many scientists think it’ll be back up to 50% before too much longer (and possibly go higher before settling back down — we have too many monocultures).

      So the GM seeds are an attempt to keep food cheap and farming as it’s currently done financially viable by keeping crop loss as low as possible and increasing yields as much as possible. However, pests don’t stop evolving just because you’ve introduced a genetic modification in the laboratory, and one thing that scientists think is happening is that — well, to give an example, there’s a bacteria known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) in the soil that kills a lot of crop pests. Farmers and home gardeners have been able to spray it on for a long time in a way that’s fairly effective against pests, because it’s not so big a threat that they have bothered to evolve a defense. Now a “Bt gene” has been engineered into some (patented, of course) crops, and pests ARE evolving defenses against it. The impact of that defense, when fully evolved, will be worldwide and will hit home gardeners, third-world farmers, even possibly landscaping. Monsanto will have made millions off it, but the rest of us will have lost a natural environmental defense against pests who are now better able to attack by GM and non-GM crops. It’s a real and serious problem.

      The attached problem is that to feed the world we need high yields, and high yields are (at least theoretically) environmentally friendly by allowing us to grow more food on less land, leaving more habitat intact. But with creeping crop loss and fast pest evolution, GM doesn’t seem to be the panacea for world hunger that some hoped.

      (Sorry, that didn’t feel coherent, but I’m trying to grade finals so I’m a bit distracted! I hope it makes sense.)

      • Murph1908 says:

        It was very coherent and informative, EBMnwmb. Thanks.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        Thank you for a brief and concise reply to my question.

        I was looking for content not “flow” so my red pen will see no use here.

      • Alys Brangwin says:

        Monoculture, soil erosion, and fertilizers in the water aren’t helping the environment! And they still use them with GMO corn.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          I know. That’s why I said “theoretically.” :) Altho LESS land getting over-fertilized, etc., is still better than more.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        So the GM seeds are an attempt to keep food profit ratio as high as possible through any means necessary.

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          Well, yes, and to drive Monsanto’s profits. However, there are also more benign goals — keeping food production high enough to feed the world, reducing the amount of land dedicated to agriculture so habitats can be preserved, reducing use of hazardous chemicals by building in resistances to various things, etc. Not that these are necessarily Monsanto’s goals, but agricultural policy and agricultural yields should be something that concerns every educated citizen, and some GM food advocates did have goals related to feeding the hungry and protecting the environment in addition to or instead of goals related to profits.

          I don’t think they’ve worked out that way, and GM foods skeeve me out, but I’m trying to be fair, because the answer isn’t just “Farm Iron Age style and buy organic!” and the issues are important. Solutions are likely to be nuanced and complex.

    • SkuldChan says:

      They buy them because they are resistant to death by roundup (hence the term roundup ready).

  3. Letsgohokies says:

    It is really sad what Monsanto has done to small farmers. I read somewhere a while ago that they were working on a “roundup ready” grass seed. TOTAL domination.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i’m in the process of killing my lawn and saw some roundup “resistant” grass seed at home depot, along with some roundup that’s supposed to be grass safe. i imagine these are the start of that process

      my neighbor tells me that my lawn is very hardy [i just bought the house in june] and he’s proving to be right, it’s been difficult to kill. i don’t know what strain it is but one way or another, by digging it up, composting it, smothering it, drowning it in vinegar or taking my torch out there and scorching the earth, i will kill it.
      but not with herbicide, i live right on a river that feeds into the water supply.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        herbicides kill broadleaf plants OR grasses … or broad spectrum kills both. They have different uptake mechanisms. Probably the “grass safe” herbicide just kills broadleaf plants like clover, dandelion, etc. It’ll say on the label. In that case it’s just tradition herbicide, no genetic engineering in your grass.

  4. Naame says:

    Wow, I had no idea how much Monsanto had a choke hold on farmers and our food industry in general until I read the source article. Thank you for posting this story. It was an excellent read.

  5. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    They’re always nominated for Wost Company in America but there’s never been a post here about them.

    It’ll be interesting to see what (if anything) will come of this.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      Historically, nothing, but third-world countries are starting to complain and some countries are starting to simply break patents — they can’t afford Monsanto’s patents, they can’t afford to pay Monsanto when “drift” occurs, and Monsanto has effectively priced them out of feeding their populations.

      At a certain point all hell will break loose — a group of countries will rise up against Monsanto and openly defy them; a pest will evolve that normally would destroy an entire strain of a particular crop, which will typically take out 1/3ish of world production of a staple crop (corn, wheat, potatoes, rice) a la the Irish Potato Famine, but GM crops and increased monoculture may allow it to destroy almost an entire crop in ALL its strains; or bananas may simply shoot up in price so high when the Cavendish banana gets out-evolved (which is apparently coming) that people start paying attention to seed and crop issues, which are a BIG FREAKING DEAL but most people know very little about.

      Farmers where I am (I’m on the county agricultural extension board) talk about it a lot, but they don’t have a lot of choices if they want to keep farming at this point. It’s sort-of this percolating horror that everyone knows is coming but nobody knows how to stop.

  6. colorisnteverything says:

    There is a documentary that delves into this – very interesting.

  7. Hockachu says:

    Check out Food, inc. to get a good idea of what Monsanto, as well as other corporations like them are doing to our farmers.

  8. MonsantoCo says:

    The Associated Press article on Monsanto’s licensing agreements with companies missed the mark on the real facts. Here is Monsanto’s response: http://bit.ly/88ep9U

    Thanks,

    Kathleen

    • trujunglist says:

      we all know by now that Monsanto uses the term “facts” to apply to anything that is in their best interest, such as the fact that Clarence Thomas basically set the stage for this bullshit.

      go away shill

    • jamar0303 says:

      Do you really think anyone here is going to believe you?

    • Dont lump me into your 99%! says:

      I hope you sleep well at night, I know I could not live with all that guilt.

  9. Conrad says:

    It’s about time.

  10. windycity says:

    I think this article from Vanity Fair does a nice job of illustrating the evil that is Monsanto:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805?currentPage=1

  11. MrEvil says:

    Roundup is just Monsanto’s brand name for the herbicide Glyphosate. Glyphosate’s patents expired so now every herbicide manufacturer can produce it without paying Monsanto a cent.

    That’s what has made Roundup Ready seed so popular. Glyphosate is relatively cheap being that its off patent, much less expensive than other narrow spectrum herbicides. Its also much cheaper to spray than it is to plow (which is about your only other option for weed control). You can also spray much later in the growing season thanks to high crop machinery.

    • QuantumRiff says:

      Well that explains the whole rash of “we’ve cut our roundup prices in half” commercials i’ve been hearing on TV and radio out here in Corn Country.. thanks!

  12. joshuadavis says:

    Unfortunately I just heard an ad for Monsanto on a radio station (WKYS, an urban music station in DC) touting how good they were for farmers. Looks like they’re getting ready for a big PR battle.

  13. bizsar says:

    Wow…almost sounds like Wal*Mart. :(

  14. consumed says:

    Anyone who hasn’t seen Food, Inc. needs to rent and watch it. Monsanto among many other mega food corporations are mentioned. This country is in for a wake-up call.

  15. semanticantics says:

    Watch “The Future of Food” on Hulu (or is it “Food Inc”?). I actually just donated to the Center for Food Safety, they are fighting Monsanto in the Supreme Court over unrestricted GE alfalfa planting.

  16. Trai_Dep says:

    Monsanto has also declared war on the guys that process regular grain into seed for the next season, which is what they’ve done for centuries. They just bury them under lawsuits, knowing they’ll crumble regardless of guilt or fault.
    Thus, they’ve artificially constrained the supply of non-GM crops to a trickle, furthering their dominance.

    E-V-I-L!

  17. computermoss says:

    Thanks for publishing this article here and bringing to light a little of what these food companies are doing to our food supply. Anyone interested in this particular topic would probably find Food, Inc well worth their time to rent and watch. Its a great documentary about food corporations and the evolution of food in America.

  18. korybing says:

    Every time I hear about Monsanto it just seems like a terrifying company.

  19. MsFab says:

    Monsanto is an absolutely horrible company. I’m a chemist by training and I’m just disguisted at what types of horrible chemicals they’ve exposed people to over the years. They’re GM crops & their strong-arm tactics are even worse.

  20. Larkspur says:

    I would really like to know if there is anything I can do as a consumer to specifically purchase agricultural products which do not use patented genetic material. Does anyone keep a list of companies which use sources that don’t give Monsanto money?

    I know that it’d be nearly impossible to avoid giving any money to companies that result in Monsanto making a profit, but if I could divert even a small portion of my grocery money to sources that would not benefit their business practices, I would absolutely do it. Just tell me how!

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      Buy organic at the farmers market.

      • henrygates3 says:

        Be sure to ask the farmer what he uses for his crop. Not everything at the farmer’s market is organic, non-GM, or non-pesticide.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      try an heirloom seed provider. there are quite a few online.
      or as eyebrows says, organic farmers/farmer’s markets

      i got my strawberry and tomato seeds from monticello. they still farm on jefferson’s land and harvest and sell the seeds to the profit of the foundation to maintain the house and grounds. they sell them on the website but i was in charlottesville recently and stopped by for the end of season 75% off seed clearance sale.

  21. bubbledumpster says:

    That’s nice and all, but it would be nice if people who could actually DO something about it would take the time to investigate and regulate this.

  22. JChicago says:

    If you haven’t seed Food Inc. (http://www.foodincmovie.com/) please DON’T WALK, RUN to see it. Companies like Monsanto are what ruins our perception of the word “corporation”.

    Monsanto = scumbags.

    Take time to send an e-mail (it takes 1 miniute) to Monsanto and tell them that you won’t tolerate this or their BS television ads either. I did. And boy it felt good! http://www.monsanto.com/

    PS: I am not a farmer and have not ties to the industry. I just think what they are doing is abominable.

    • Dacker says:

      Oh yeah! I got it from netflix and was amazed by Monsanto’s Gestapo-esque tactics to bully, intimidate, and sue farmers for what has been normal farming processes for millenia.

      • JChicago says:

        Yes, wasn’t it an eye opener? The other companies in the film, including Tyson and Smithfield deserve scrutiny as well for the suspect business practices.

        People need to make some noise even if it just takes 5 minutes to shoot an email off. That’s the only way they will change their ways.

  23. jon34511 says:

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned anything about the Monsanto rep’s article. Monsanto scares the crap out of me more than any other company. Controlling oil is one thing, I don’t need oil to live, but controlling food is a completely different story. I fear the food market in this country is getting so hush hush and so secretive we are going to be in for a big surpise one day.

    Any company that feels the need to print something like Monsanto did in reply to this article has issues, it reminds me of a teenage fight on a web forum.

  24. Elvisisdead says:

    You know what will protect farmers from Monsanto? Getting behind a product like Puramaize. It can’t be cross-polinated by another strain. http://www.hoegemeyer.com/puramaizeqanda.shtml

  25. bitsnbytes says:

    When do these Monsanto genes come off patent? Anybody know?