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Monsanto May Have To Repay 10 Years of GM Soya Royalties In Brazil 377

Posted by Soulskill
from the bean-counters dept.
scibri writes "Biotech giant Monsanto is one step closer to losing billions of dollars in revenues from its genetically-modified Roundup Ready soya beans, after the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled the company must repay royalties collected over the past decade. Since GM crops were legalized in 2005, Monsanto has charged Brazilian farmers royalties of 2% on their sales of Roundup Ready soya beans. The company also tests Brazilian soya beans that are sold as non-GM — if they turn out to be Roundup Ready, the company charges the farmers 3%. Farmers challenged this as an unjust tax on their business. In April a regional court ruled against Monsanto, though that ruling has been put on hold pending an appeal. The Supreme Court, meanwhile has said that whatever the final ruling is, it will apply throughout the whole country."
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Monsanto May Have To Repay 10 Years of GM Soya Royalties In Brazil

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  • by Gr33nJ3ll0 (1367543) on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:57PM (#40337275)
    It's nice to see somebody standing up to Monsanto. Never has one company been so close to totally controlling the food supply for the entire planet. Their abusive practices with farmers both home and abroad have been well documented, and yet our elected leaders turn a blind eye.
    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:05PM (#40337351)

      Patents are the real problem. Monsanto designed these seeds to be sterile, so you have to keep rebuying the same product year-after-year (instead of just reusing last year's seeds for the new crop). Also the seeds cross-polinate to non-Monsanto seeds, polluting nature's generic seeds with Monsanto genes. And worst of all:

      Monsanto has a nasty habit of suing innocent farmers who have decided to continue using the "generic" seeds provided by nature. They send-round lawyers to harass the farmers, issue threatening letters, and file court cases. Oftentimes these lawsuits bankrupt the farmer, which was Monsanto's original intent: To eliminate people who are not using their products. Their tactics are very similar to how the bastards at the RIAA and MPAA act, but very much more destructive.

      • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:35PM (#40337691)

        Monsanto has a nasty habit of suing innocent farmers who have decided to continue using the "generic" seeds provided by nature. They send-round lawyers to harass the farmers, issue threatening letters, and file court cases. /p>

        So the plants make the farmers Roundup Ready as well?

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:45PM (#40337831) Homepage Journal

        Monsanto designed these seeds to be sterile

        IMO, that qualifies as a crime against humanity.

        This one example should end forever any discussion of the benefit from an unregulated free market. And no, regulations that are written by the companies being regulated do not qualify.

        • It is not an "unregulated free market" if rule of law does not exist, if some are able to bribe governments for special privileges, such as the privilege of being able to poison some people and extort from others, without any way for the victims to fight back. And in any sort of "regulated" economy, who exactly do you think has the power to write and to enforce the regulations? Hint: not you or me or the small farmer. The regulations are to benefit and protect the regulated (Google for "regulatory captur
        • by StikyPad (445176)

          Monsanto designed these seeds to be sterile

          IMO, that qualifies as a crime against humanity.

          Really? I mean... REALLY? You think it would be better to design seeds that could overtake the indigenous species and that there would be no backlash from that if it happened? Designing infertile seeds isn't a crime; it's a prudent ecological measure that also makes good business sense. Gnash your teeth all you want about the alignment of interests there, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still the best p

          • by PopeRatzo (965947)

            If the total cost results in a lower profit than using organic/non-GM seeds, then just use the fscking non-GM seeds.

            This article is specifically about farmers who were using the fsking non-GM seeds, but Monsanto was going after them for a significant (considering the tiny profit margin for small farms) portion of their income.

            That's the problem. Monsanto has designed their seeds to be the plant equivalent of the Mafia: Use my seeds? Fuck you, pay me. Didn't use my seeds? Fuck you, pay me. And don't ev

      • by Shavano (2541114)
        If the plants were sterile they wouldn't cross pollinate other farmers' crops.
        • by Sentrion (964745)

          The plants cannot produce seed if they are sterile, and with corn, the "seed" is the crop. The seed produced might be sterile, but this still does not seem to be the case since some farmers have been accused of saving and planting the supposedly "sterile" Monsanto seed. That said, the flowers need to pollinate in order to produce the Roundup Ready seed (ie crop). So cross pollination is virtually impossible to prevent unless those growing the plants are required to grow them indoors. But how would Monsa

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by poetmatt (793785)

        I don't think you understand how bad this stuff is. People are unsure if GMO is modifying *people* as well. So it's not just the patent and greed issues, GMO is literally affecting DNA/RNA. So it's another case where greed is literally bring down society in the same way as MPAA/RIAA.

      • by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday June 15, 2012 @03:10PM (#40338761) Journal

        Which is why these patents scare the fuck out of me. Am I the only one that is more than a little worried that these GMOs are basically handing over control of the food supply to a single corporation? its bad enough when patents stifle innovations but we are talking about the fricking food supply folks, its not like you can just eat dirt. Since its already been proven that GMOs can contaminate nearby crops this lets them have a nice racket, where you either pay them to use their "product" or your field gets contaminated by theirs...and you pay them MORE. Does anybody else find that more than a little fucking disturbing? I mean if I dump shit in my neighbor's yard I can't force them to pay me for the privilege, so why can Monsanto do the same thing by patenting the shit?

        Finally a little weird possibly but...does anyone else look at the nasty shit Monsanto pulls and gets reminded of that scene in "Damien: Omen II" where the head of genetics at Thorn is bragging about how with control of the food supply thanks to GMOs they can pretty much call the shots? Not saying Monsanto is the debil but the way they've got GMOs rolling it does strike me that they are climbing past Halliburton, Goldman Sachs, and Blackwater on the "Holy shit, that's fucked up" scale of corporate nastiness. I mean its pretty bad when a lot of your current gameplan seems like its nicked from a movie about the rise of the fricking antichrist.

    • by Picass0 (147474) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:05PM (#40337359) Homepage Journal

      It's not every day you see someone make the RIAA and MPAA look like amateurs.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Oh they aren't blind.

      They just prefer looking at barrels of money shoved in front of them by lobbyists.

  • Too much control (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:58PM (#40337291) Homepage Journal

    To have one company have total control over a food source is disturbing. They essentially have a monopoly and have risked destroying non GM crops through cross-contamination and I think it should be Monsanto that should be paying damages to farmers who do not want to deal with GM crops.

    • Yep, probably cross contamination. If a farmer doesn't want to use a GM crop he shouldn't have just because his neighbor got a little too close with his crop.

  • by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Friday June 15, 2012 @12:59PM (#40337293)
    If Monsanto can't find a way to make money on their product without special government intervention like this, their business model is broken. The point where they make money should be (only) when they sell their product to a farmer. All this bribery and whatnot to get special laws or to abuse existing laws to prop up their business model is nonsense.

    And I'm not even against GM foods, I find most of those people to be clueless Luddites. I'm just against their corrupt business model enabled by corrupt governments.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:11PM (#40337405)

      How about not letting them patent living things?

      I think that would be enough. A farmer should be able to save seed, or benefit from cross pollination. In the later case I can't even think of a reasonable argument against it. If you don't want to give away your plants genetic material then grow it indoors.

      I think GM foods are fine, and even useful, but I don't think you should be able to make your neighbors responsible for material you are spreading freely.

      • by jonnythan (79727)

        If Monsanto can't patent the GM crop you created, Monsanto is not going to create any GM crops.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          If Monsanto can't patent the GM crop you created, Monsanto is not going to create any GM crops.

          Fine, there's no reason a private entity has to. Tons of public research has been sold off to private entities over the years and then they claim total ownership of the end result. We're free to pursue public research to the end and create these things. They are supposed to be for the public good, after all. If they benefit all mankind then by all rights these are the things we should be funding (just as we publicly fund a lot of medical research).

      • I have no problem with them patenting things they invent, alive or not. I have a problem with them asserting ownership of something, anything, that occurs after they've sold a _physical thing_ (seeds) to someone else. Once the farmer buys it, it's his. Any seeds that come from it later are his.

        If Monsanto can't somehow make sterile seeds or something, tough luck - broken business model. They had their "Terminator seeds", that's what they should sell and if the market doesn't like it then tough.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Luddites?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/19/monsanto-gm-corn-causing_n_425195.html [huffingtonpost.com]

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/genetically-modified-soy_b_544575.html [huffingtonpost.com]

      http://www.mindfully.org/GE/2005/Modified-Soya-Rats10oct05.htm [mindfully.org]

      basically, no one does ANY testing, they just trust that Monsanto says that it is safe,

      http://www.fda.gov/Food/Biotechnology/Submissions/ucm161107.htm [fda.gov]

      And please, don't get me started about "nature does it for millennia" bullshit. Nature does not insert random genes from some weir

      • Citing Jeffrey Smith on GE is as bad as citing Andrew Wakefield on vaccines (read this [academicsreview.org], watch this [youtube.com]). In the first link, the study he cites was widely criticized by the UFSA, FSANZ, and French HCB. In the second link, the first two studies he cites were not published in peer review journals, the third was withdrawn for flaws, and the fourth has nothing to do with GE if you actually read it except for sing a GE variety and stating that some of the chemical components of GE varieties are different than non G

  • by jklappenbach (824031) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:05PM (#40337353) Journal
    Monsanto needs to rethink their business model. While some may have emotionally based reactions toward GM in general, the consensus is that it's an essential tool in the effort to feed the world's growing population. In order to continue, Monsanto needs to stop thinking in terms of genetics as intellectual property, and being paid for wherever their genomes spread. Instead, they need to focus on their relationship with the farmer, and making that relationship essential enough to pay for on a yearly basis. Aside from the product of seed, there are a wide number of services that Monsanto can and should be providing to farmers to help ensure that yields remain high as well as managing business and ecological concerns. Instead of alienating, they should be making themselves as useful as possible.
    • There are quite a few of my genes in both Monsanto's fouder, their current CEO, and their top scientists. How much do they owe me ?

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Monsanto's business model is using extortion to intimidate their competition into going away. If they shut down an innocent farmer simply because he is too broke to fight back, they still win.

    • Monsanto doesn't need to rethink their business model. When it comes to greed and capitalism, they have succeeded. They're raking in gigantic profits. Why should they change?

      It's the countries that allow this which need to rethink whether they want to allow Monsanto - which they should not. Businesses which are anticompetitive are supposed to be penalized by antitrust, etc.

  • by gstrickler (920733) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:08PM (#40337375)

    I know patents protect against independent invention, reverse engineering, etc. but if your product produces seed that "infects" another field or wind blows those seeds to another field, you are NOT entitled to royalties on those seeds.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:19PM (#40337459) Journal

      Monsanto shouldn't be allowed to assert rights on second generation seeds. If they want to protect their GM products, they need to make them sterile.

      Imagine if a company used their patented method to modify your genes to fix a genetic defect in you. For $100,000 they cured your diabetes. Then what would happen if they asserted that you owed them an additional $100,000 for every child you had, and every grandchild born within the patent term? If you didn't pay per child, and they were found to have the fixed gene, you owed them $150,000 each.

      • Sterility might be difficult. If plants don't flower and pollinate themselves, then there will be no seeds. So the sterility has to happen in the seed - it must be incapable of producing a viable plant. But what happens if the pollen from one of these plants pollinates a 'natural' plant? Just imagine the outcry if neighboring farmers are unable to use their own seeds for planting next year.

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          Monsanto has already perfected sterile seeds. - "Just imagine the outcry if neighboring farmers are unable to use their own seeds for planting next year." - That's exactly what's happening. And farmers get sued and driven out-of-business trying to defend themselves, when they are completely innocent.

          • They are forbidden (by Monsanto) from using the seeds, they are not unable to use them. But imagine what would happen if they planted the seeds, but no plants grew. No harvest at all that year. I'm pretty sure Monsanto would go bankrupt quickly if things like that happened (not that I think that one less Evil corporation would be a bad thing).

      • by shentino (1139071)

        They need to sue the farmers who let the seeds escape. Unless and until the contaminated farmers become complicit they should not be subject to anything beyond an injunction.

    • This is were the IP system gets turned into madness at the moment - they are spearheading to kill the whole concept of the first sale doctrine with that... And they seem to succeed
      • by shentino (1139071)

        This is just Monsanto using patent infringement as an excuse to send lawyer goon squads after people they'd rather eliminate anyway.

        They don't have to be right. They just have to look good enough not to get called on it. They do that and their superior legal budgets handle the rest.

    • As far as I can tell Monsanto has never actually brought a patent infringement suit in a case where solely windblown pollen was involved.

      (And DON'T give me any hooey about the Schmeiser case - that was not solely windblown pollen - Schmeiser treated and saved seed from plants to get nearly 100% RoundUp Ready seeds which he both sold and replanted).

      There have been relevant comments by some leading judges on the topic. For example:

      "As Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circui

  • Pros of Monsanto? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by s1d3track3D (1504503) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:23PM (#40337503)
    So from everything I've heard and read about Monsanto, it is the epitome of evil and functions with impunity here in the US. That Brazil would be the stand up (and win) against them is very inspiring and should set an example.

    However to play devil's advocate, are there any benefits to a company such as Monsanto?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HerculesMO (693085)

      To do the research behind GM seed/food is actually a great thing; they've proven to be safe, often more nutritious, and grow with less pesticides and run-off into the ecosystem. In short, GM foods are great.

      The problem of course is that Monsanto is almost a monopoly, and they are an egregious patent abuser. That leads people like Jeffrey Smith (the "King" of the 'natural foods' movement) to capitalize on making a patent abuser also somehow relate to making an unsafe product by using dubious "evidence" to da

      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday June 15, 2012 @02:16PM (#40338213) Homepage

        In short, GM foods are great.

        All general statements are false. In this case, it depends a great deal on what the modifications do.

        GM plants needing less pesticide: Good. GM plants that don't produce a viable seed for the sole purpose of increasing Monsanto's profits at the expense of poor farmers in Brazil, India, and a lot of other places: Evil. And using GM patents to force all farmers in the world to buy your product: Obviously very evil.

        In a perfect world, research on GM would have been publicly funded research with no patent protection and the option of any private seed manufacturer to get in the game of producing the seeds with these modifications. That would have given us the pesticide benefits and such that you speak of, but without all the BS from Monsanto.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stan_qaz (2482542)
      They and Bill Gates play well together? Google: Monsanto "Bill Gates" - but only if you want to get really aggravated.
    • by seepho (1959226)
      I'd say producing herbicide-resistant crops is a plus, and I bet some of the farmers who feel that product is worth purchasing would agree with me.
      • Indeed. It's not as though there are no non-GM non-Monsanto seeds to buy and plant. The Monsanto ones are just that much better.

  • By examining every United States Citizen.

    If it's determined that we've eaten food that is GM'ed by Monsanto, we will all have to pay a 3% royalty for their intellectual property now being a part of our genetic makeup/biosystem.

  • Horrible summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by Translation Error (1176675) on Friday June 15, 2012 @01:59PM (#40338021)

    the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled the company must repay royalties collected over the past decade.

    What?! The linked article doesn't say anything of the sort! It says:

    In April, Giovanni Conti, a judge in Rio Grande do Sul, decided that Monsanto's levy was illegal, noting that the patents relating to Roundup Ready soya beans have already expired in Brazil. He ordered Monsanto to stop collecting royalties, and return those collected since 2004 -- or pay back a minimum of US$2 billion. Monsanto appealed, and Conti's decision has been suspended for now, pending consideration by the Justice Tribune of Rio Grande do Sul.

    But in 2011, Monsanto had also made a parallel legal bid to the Brazilian Supreme Court of Justice, the country's highest federal court. The company argued that the syndicates had no legal status to bring their case, and also that any final ruling should be limited to Rio Grande do Sul, fearing that its losses would be even greater if it applied to the whole country. On 12 June, the judges of the Brazilian Supreme Court of Justice ruled against Monsanto, deciding unanimously that the ruling by the Justice Tribune of Rio Grande do Sul, once it is made, should apply nationwide. Monsanto has declined to comment on the case.

    • Re:Horrible summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lisias (447563) on Friday June 15, 2012 @02:18PM (#40338227) Homepage Journal

      the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled the company must repay royalties collected over the past decade.

      What?! The linked article doesn't say anything of the sort!

      From the same arcticle:

      "On 12 June, the judges of the Brazilian Supreme Court of Justice ruled against Monsanto, deciding unanimously that the ruling by the Justice Tribune of Rio Grande do Sul, once it is made, should apply nationwide. Monsanto has declined to comment on the case."

      So, Judges of Rio Grande do Sul ruled out that Monsanto should repay back the last decade royalties. And the Brazilian Supreme Court stated that once this ruling is confirmed, will be valid for the whole country!

      So, yes, it says exactly that - but not directly, as any person that is not a fool can see :-)

  • by WilliamBaughman (1312511) on Friday June 15, 2012 @02:00PM (#40338045)

    I generally think of Monsanto as evil. The power that Monsanto has over large portions of the global food supply frightens me. That said, the "Roundup Ready" gene is really useful to farmers. People complain about Monsanto's use of terminator seeds, patents, lawsuits, etc. only because it is so difficult to compete without using Monsanto's products. Otherwise, no would care.

    Soya beans and civilization in Brazil are both older than Monsanto. The Brazilian state could have banned the import, distribution, and cultivation of GMOs - but it did not. And Brazilian farmers could have used their existing seeds, but they did not. They used the piper's awesome seeds. Given what I know about Brazilian politics and trade practices, and human nature, I suspect this case is rooted more in the desire not to pay that piper than in actual law.

  • by harvey the nerd (582806) on Friday June 15, 2012 @02:23PM (#40338281)
    If the GMO soya beans can be shown to be contamination, like a small fraction primarily adjacent to road or property boundaries, perhaps Monsanto should be charged 3% for spoiling exportability to Europe or as "non GMO organic". Monsanto should be required to show that its current license fees relate to unexpired patents.
  • by lilfields (961485) on Friday June 15, 2012 @02:58PM (#40338649) Homepage
    Monsanto is a subject that has so much hyperbole on both sides (usually those against GMOs), calling the Monsanto pollen a "contaminant" is way overboard and doesn't make much sense at all. Saying Monsanto doesn't attack small farmers is a bit of a stretch, but all companies abuse copyright/patent laws. Just loosen up the laws, reform copyright, patents, licensing, etc. This is not as easy as "it's a contaminant!, let farmers sue!" (and wouldn't they sue the -other- farmer anyhow? Not Monsanto?) Instead it a genuine problem across the spectrum of commerce. From Apple, Motorola, Microsoft and yes, Monsanto. Intellectual property rights are a relatively new idea, and it's going to take decades for it to be sorted out to be more optimal.
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday June 15, 2012 @03:34PM (#40339081) Homepage

    Suppose a company creates a way to insert a gene into a human egg, perhaps to imbue some immunity to a disease or correct for a genetic defect. Under the current law, the company could patent their new gene. Add according to Monsanto, that person's children would be using the company's gene and would have to pay a royalty for their own existence.

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