Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
The greatest challenge to the world is not US$100 or more oil, it's going to be about getting enough food so that the new middle class can eat the way our middle class does, and that means we've got to expand food output dramatically, and more importantly, avoiding falling into the trap of biotech companies like Monsanto whose drive for global domination of its GM products is near total.

I totally agree: to me the biggest reason to oppose GM organisms is not the threat to health or biodiversity which don't seem dire, but the prospect of total corporate control of the global food supply.

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 23rd, 2008 at 06:24:10 AM EST
by Asinus Asinum Fricat (patric.juillet@gmail.com) on Wed Apr 23rd, 2008 at 12:22:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monsanto's Harvest of Fear: Politics & Power: vanityfair.com

"Monsanto is big. You can't win. We will get you. You will pay."

Scenes like this are playing out in many parts of rural America these days as Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers' co-ops, seed dealers--anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds. As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the "seed police" and use words such as "Gestapo" and "Mafia" to describe their tactics.

When asked about these practices, Monsanto declined to comment specifically, other than to say that the company is simply protecting its patents.


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Apr 23rd, 2008 at 05:05:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Monsanto's Harvest of Fear: Politics & Power: vanityfair.com
Whatever the outcome, the case shows why Monsanto is so detested in farm country, even by those who buy its products. "I don't know of a company that chooses to sue its own customer base," says Joseph Mendelson, of the Center for Food Safety. "It's a very bizarre business strategy." But it's one that Monsanto manages to get away with, because increasingly it's the dominant vendor in town.

I know other companies that sues its customers, they all deal with intellectual enclosure. "Intellectual property" is their fancy brand name, but what it amounts to is old fashioned monopolies. We might not recognise it as it is the monopoly right to one particular seed (patent) or one particular song (copyright), but with increasing numbers of monopoly rights held by a decreasing number of companies we are heading towards one company controlling food, another controlling culture, a third one computer programs and so on. And their lobbying for ever increasing lengths and scopes of their rights is intense. Corporate surveilliance rights is often needed to make sure no one avoids paying their dues. A boss from the Honourable East India Company would recognise their business models and feel right at home.

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear: Politics & Power: vanityfair.com

The company has a staff devoted to enforcing patents and litigating against farmers. To gather leads, the company maintains an 800 number and encourages farmers to inform on other farmers they think may be engaging in "seed piracy."

If you oppose you are a pirate, so if you have not donned your eye patch yet, you might as well, because sooner or later you will be guilty of piracy.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Apr 24th, 2008 at 06:33:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the documentary The World According to Monsanto, there's a discussion with Midwest corn farmers (the kind that have a lot more than 1,000 acres) about Monsanto's methods. They said the atmosphere in the area had become appalling. There was no more goodwill or friendship between neighbours. People spied on each other, suspected each other, were ready to snitch on each other or feared being snitched on.

This is not just an effect of simple intellectual property. Seedsmen have always held rights to the varieties they create, so that XXX Seeds is the only company that can sell YYY variety, because they developed that variety. But with GM, the seeds are sold under contract of the Right-of-Use kind that software developers inflict on us: "paying for this software doesn't mean it's yours, just that you have a certain limited right of use". So, the farmer signs up that he may use the seeds and sell the crop, but not keep any seed back to sow again. And the next intensifier is that Monsanto enforces and persists in litigation so as to create a body of case law.

It's IP to the power of ten.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 24th, 2008 at 07:34:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There has been various systems of rights in traditional plant breeding, but under the banner of Intellectual Property (which I believe is just a few decades old) and with lots of lobbying those rights has expanded to the power of ten.

I suspect that the term Intellectual Property was constructed to shift debate from "what monopoly rights (or exclusive rights) should we as a society hand hand for the good of the society?" to "why should we allow pirates to steal intellectual property?". And it has been very successful.

So I would say that Intellectual Property are traditional rights to the power of ten. And that the EULAs, the terminology (theft, pirates), the surveilliance needed to stop incursions are not accidentaly similar, but similar because it is part of the same intellectual enclosure.

Seeds and other biological processes are the most worrying arena of this enclosure, as it is hard to see a Creative Commons or Open Source movement in seeds. Or maybe I am just not imaginative enough.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Apr 24th, 2008 at 08:47:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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