The biotechnology industry has pulled a fast one with regards to the
legitimacy of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Straddling both
sides of the fence, multinational corporations like Monsanto
continually claim that their GM monstrosities are “substantially
equivalent” to natural crops when it comes to their safety. And yet
at the very same time, this ilk also insists that its products are
uniquely different from natural crops when it comes to enforcing its
patents, a clearly hypocritical and duplicitous stance that proves
the illegitimacy of the entire GMO business model.
The 83 family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses, and
agricultural organizations challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically
modified seed filed papers in federal court (13th August 2011) defending
their right to seek legal protection from the threat of being sued by
Monsanto for patent infringement should they ever become contaminated
by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed. The
Public Patent Foundation
(PUBPAT) represents the plaintiffs in the suit, titled Organic Seed
Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA), et al. v. Monsanto and pending
in the Southern District of New York. The August 13 filings respond to
a motion filed by Monsanto in mid-July to have the case dismissed. In
support of the plantiffs’ right to bring the case, 12 agricultural
organizations also filed a friend-of-the-court
“Rather than give a straight forward answer on whether they would sue
our clients for patent infringement if they are ever contaminated by
Monsanto’s transgenic seed, Monsanto has instead chosen to try to deny
our clients the right to receive legal protection from the courts,”
said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. “Filings include
sworn statements by several of the plaintiffs themselves explaining to
the court how the risk of contamination by transgenic seed is real and
why they cannot trust Monsanto to not use an occurrence of contamination
as a basis to accuse them of patent infringement.”
This goes well beyond control of seeds, of course, and beyond the plaintiffs:
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The Justice Department began an antitrust investigation of the seed industry last year, with an apparent focus on Monsanto, which controls much of the market for the expensive bioengineered traits that make crops resistant to insect pests and herbicides.
Critics charge that Monsanto has used license agreements with smaller seed companies to gain an unfair advantage over competitors and to block cheaper generic versions of its seeds from eventually entering the market. DuPont, a rival company, also claims Monsanto has unfairly barred it from combining biotech traits in a way that would benefit farmers.
Monsanto of course claims to be unfairly maligned, and its CEO, Hugh Grant, says:
“We were the first out of the blocks, and I think what you see now is a bunch of people catching up and aggressively competing, and I’m fighting with them,” Mr. Grant said. He said farmers chose the company’s products because they liked the results in the field, not because of any untoward conduct on Monsanto’s part.
Confidential contracts detailing Monsanto Co.’s business practices
reveal how the world’s biggest seed developer is squeezing competitors,
controlling smaller seed companies and protecting its dominance over the
multibillion-dollar market for genetically altered crops, an Associated
Press investigation has found.
Why should you care?
Declining competition in the seed business could lead to price hikes
that ripple out to every family’s dinner table. That’s because the corn
flakes you had for breakfast, soda you drank at lunch and beef stew you
ate for dinner likely were produced from crops grown with Monsanto’s