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Because that's what farmers do

by dvx Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 07:18:51 AM EST

[Hoisted from today's Newsroom]

As all the world knows, Monsanto aggressively defends its genmod IP rights.

Monsanto sued small famers to protect seed patents, report says | Environment | guardian.co.uk

The agricultural giant Monsanto has sued hundreds of small farmers in the United States in recent years in attempts to protect its patent rights on genetically engineered seeds that it produces and sells, a new report said on Tuesday.

The study, produced jointly by the Center for Food Safety and the Save Our Seeds campaigning groups, has outlined what it says is a concerted effort by the multinational to dominate the seeds industry in the US and prevent farmers from replanting crops they have produced from Monsanto seeds.

In its report, called Seed Giants vs US Farmers, the CFS said it had tracked numerous law suits that Monsanto had brought against farmers and found some 142 patent infringement suits against 410 farmers and 56 small businesses in more than 27 states. In total the firm has won more than $23m from its targets, the report said..

But now one farmer is trying to change the game:

Farm-fresh infringement: Can you violate a patent by planting some seeds? | Ars Technica

Can a farmer commit patent infringement just by planting soybeans he bought on the open market? This week, the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on the question. The Court is pondering an appeals court decision saying that such planting can, in fact, infringe patents.

In 1994, the agricultural giant Monsanto obtained a patent covering a line of "Roundup Ready" crops that had been genetically modified to resist Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. This genetic modification is hereditary, so future generations of seeds are also "Roundup Ready." Farmers had only to save a portion of their crop for re-planting the next season, and they wouldn't need to purchase new seed from Monsanto every year. The company didn't want to be in the business of making a one-time sale, so when Monsanto sold "Roundup Ready" soybeans to farmers, it required them to sign a licensing agreement promising not to re-plant future generations of seeds.

However, farmers remain free to sell the soybeans they grow in the commodity market, where most are used to feed people or livestock. Roundup Ready soybeans have become extremely popular; they now account for 94 percent of all acres planted in Indiana, for instance. Vernon Bowman, an Indiana farmer, was a customer of Monsanto who realized that Roundup Ready soybeans had become so common in his area that if he simply purchased commodity soybeans from a local grain elevator, the overwhelming majority of those soybeans would be Roundup Ready. Commodity soybeans are significantly cheaper than Monsanto's soybeans, and they came without the contractual restriction on re-planting.

So Bowman planted (and re-planted) commodity soybeans instead of using Monsanto's seeds. When Monsanto discovered what Bowman was doing, it sued him for patent infringement.

Because that's what farmers do: they buy seeds and stick them in the ground.

And Monsanto's hardnosed attitude is not without its own irony:

Hugh Bowman Vs Monsanto Soybean Case - Business Insider

Yet, despite the vast sums of money involved in modern farming, it is ironically Bowman's own lack of cash that has seen the case end up at the supreme court. Monsanto has a long record of reaching settlements with commercially pressured farmers it targets for patent infringements. But when the firm sued Bowman, he was already bankrupt after an unrelated land deal went wrong. Thus, he had little to lose. "I made up my mind to fight it until I could not fight it anymore," he said. "I thought: I am not going to play dead."

Good luck Vernon Bowman!

This shows to what extent the right to patent life forms can and will go. Also a further denial of our right to buy something and own it, rather than lease the technology involved. In other words, a massive shift from consumer (professionals included) rights to corporate rights.

Authoritarian liberalism at work.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 10:15:16 AM EST
Patent and copyright must be changed so they work in favour of creators and the public good, not rent seekers.

(Not sure how ...)

sapere aude

by Number 6 on Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 11:08:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An interesting contrast is provided by Beyer's Liberty Link GMO rice in that the trait provided unwanted contamination of adjacent crops, destroying their export value to Europe at the time. If a farmer's land is surrounded by land planted with GMO versions of the same crop, say corn, and he plants an heirloom variety to grow for seed stock, replanting from saved seed, he would likely have pretty thoroughly contaminated 'heirloom' corn after a couple of years. Why should he not be able to sell it as contaminated heirloom seed stock?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 12:02:37 PM EST
What Monsanto needs to do, in order to enable non-GMO-using farmers to comply, would be to insert a gene which renders the cultivar vulnerable to some agent which is harmless to non-GMO plants (preferably something which does not invalidate organic certification.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Thu Feb 14th, 2013 at 12:07:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What they need to do is devise plants that have sterile pollen. Sterile seeds are optional.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2013 at 12:32:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How will plants with sterile pollen produce a crop?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2013 at 01:48:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Similar to the way mules are produced - F1 hybrids.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2013 at 10:43:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe mules are produced with non-sterile sperm.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Feb 16th, 2013 at 11:41:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, you want the soy seed crop to be mules? If replanted, would not yield seeds?

I bet if they could do that easily, it would be already out there.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Feb 16th, 2013 at 11:49:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This appears to be the state of the terminator seeds:

Genetic use restriction technology - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Genetic use restriction technology (GURT), colloquially known as terminator technology or suicide seeds, is the name given to proposed methods for restricting the use of genetically modified plants by causing second generation seeds to be sterile. The technology was developed under a cooperative research and development agreement between the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture and Delta and Pine Land company in the 1990s, but it is not yet commercially available.[1]

Because some stakeholders expressed concerns that this technology might lead to dependence for small farmers, Monsanto Company, an agricultural products company and the world's biggest seed supplier, pledged not to commercialize the technology in 1999.[2] Customers who buy patented transgenic seeds from Monsanto must sign a contract not to save or sell the seeds from their harvest,[3] which preempts the need for a "terminator gene". The Delta and Pine Land Company, which had performed greenhouse tests of Terminator seeds and owned a Canadian patent on Terminator granted on October 11 2005, intended to commercialize the technology,[4] but D&PL was acquired by Monsanto in 2007.[5]

The technology was discussed during the 8th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Curitiba, Brazil, March 20-31, 2006.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Feb 17th, 2013 at 01:46:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Because obviously tying people to Monsanto via patent law rather than the seed market solves the problem of being tied to Monsanto.

Hey, wait a minute...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Feb 19th, 2013 at 04:24:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
who made them sign that pledge.

Think about it. Pre-empting all those juicy lawsuits? Where's the fun in that?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 03:41:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Had forgotten Terminator already... :)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 at 03:00:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do GMO Crops Really Have Higher Yields? | Mother Jones

According to the biotech industry, genetically modified (GM) crops are a boon to humanity because they allow farmers to "generate higher crop yields with fewer inputs," as the trade group Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) puts it on its web page.

Buoyed by such rhetoric, genetically modified seed giant Monsanto and its peers have managed to flood the corn, soybean, and cotton seed markets with two major traits: herbicide resistance and pesticide expression--giving plants the ability to, respectively, withstand regular lashings of particular herbicides and kill bugs with the toxic trait of Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

Turns out, though, that both assertions in BIO's statement are highly questionable. Washington State University researcher Charles Benbrook has demonstrated that the net effect of GMOs in the United States has been an increase in use of toxic chemical inputs. Benbrook found that while the Bt trait has indeed allowed farmers to spray dramatically lower levels of insecticides, that effect has been more than outweighed the gusher of herbicides uncorked by Monsanto's Roundup Ready technology, as weeds have rapidly adapted resistance to regular doses of Monsanto's Rounup herbicide.

And in a new paper (PDF) funded by the US Department of Agriculture, University of Wisconsin researchers have essentially negated the "more food" argument as well. The researchers looked at data from UW test plots that compared crop yields from various varieties of hybrid corn, some genetically modified and some not, between 1990 and 2010. While some GM varieties delivered small yield gains, others did not. Several even showed lower yields than non-GM counterparts. With the exception of one commonly used trait--a Bt type designed to kill the European corn borer--the authors conclude, "we were surprised not to find strongly positive transgenic yield effects." Both the glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) and the Bt trait for corn rootworm caused yields to drop.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sun Feb 17th, 2013 at 02:26:51 PM EST

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