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The Courts Science

Monsanto Takes Home $23m From Small Farmers According To Report 419

Posted by samzenpus
from the mine-now-I-sell-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Seed giant Monsanto has won more than $23 million from hundreds of small farmers accused of replanting the company's genetically engineered seeds. Now, another case is looming – and it could set a landmark precedent for the future of seed ownership. From the article: 'According to the report, Monsanto has alleged seed patent infringement in 144 lawsuits against 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 U.S. states as of January of 2013. Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta together hold 53 percent of the global commercial seed market, which the report says has led to price increases for seeds -- between 1995 and 2011, the average cost of planting one acre of soybeans rose 325 percent and corn seed prices went up 259 percent.'"
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Monsanto Takes Home $23m From Small Farmers According To Report

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  • Monsanto takes .. (Score:5, Informative)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:08PM (#42890055)

    And that's about all you have to say.

    • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:10PM (#42890089)
      Yeah.. when they can charge people who never bought their product because it naturally spread...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) *

        Yeah.. when they can charge people who never bought their product because it naturally spread...

        I am no fan of Monsanto, but this is a very one-sided statement. These farmers knew full well that they were planting GMO seed, they knew that Monsanto had a patent on it, and they took full advantage of the GMO by spraying their crops with glyphosate. To portray these farmers as poor victims of pollen spread by the wind is baloney.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:33PM (#42890351)

          Being able to patent seeds is more bullshit than being able to patent software.

        • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:34PM (#42890359)
          That is, in this case, a good point. Here farmers were knowingly replanting seed they had purchased.

          However, while I do not know if it has come up in US courts, there have been instances of Monsanto claiming that farmers who simply have their seeds in their field, even through natural spreading, owe them a fee. If nothing else, they can supply samples as evidence of theft simply because in most cases there is way to differentiate between something like theft or replanting from natural spreading, they only have to show the farmer was benefiting from their GMO.

          So I will admit, I tangented from this particular case.
          • by zennyboy (1002544) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:43PM (#42890449)

            I'm not. If it grew on my land, it's mine... Case closed

            • You mean if I made something with my own materials in my own house I can't violate any patents?

              I think you just found a loophole around every single patent there is out there.

              • by zennyboy (1002544)

                If "something growing alone by itself" is the same as you building it in your house :-)

                • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:37PM (#42890959)

                  If "something growing alone by itself" is the same as you building it in your house :-)

                  But GMO crops didn't just "grow alone" by themselves. The infringing farmers took concerted action, over several years, to isolate and propagate the seeds, and then benefited from the patented gene by spraying their fields with glyphosate. That is something that someone who believed they had non-GMO seeds would not do, because it would kill their crop. .

                  • by Burz (138833) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:01AM (#42892999) Journal

                    I do know this much: If I were a farmer, I would not want the burden of having to test my crops each season for patent violations trying to take hold on their own.

                    These farmers took that burden and tried to turn it into an opportunity. But of course, according to the legal system *every* seed on every lot now has to meet with Monsanto's approval.

                  • by chrismcb (983081) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:21AM (#42893109) Homepage

                    The infringing farmers took concerted action, over several years, to isolate and propagate the seeds, and then benefited from the patented gene by spraying their fields with glyphosate.

                    Since it isn't mentioned in either of TFAs I'll take your word for it. But I don't believe the issue is that they had or didn't have a strain of Monsato's designed food. The question is, who owns the second generation of seeds?
                    They way I understand it, you patent a process. I'm pretty sure Monsato didn't patent farming, and growing. So what process did these farmers break?

                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by TaQ (561168)

                    A lot of farmers knew about the patents, but a lot didn't. You must consider that there are small farmers using their products, and if you ask some of them about "do you know what a patent is?" they will think is a kind of fruit. :-) I doubt even who knows about the patents could imagine that they will become victims of it on this level. Monsanto told them that Roundup (glyphosate) was safe and biodegradable (1), I guess what kinds of other advantages and lies they told them when they started to sell their

                  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @09:37AM (#42895333) Homepage

                    But GMO crops didn't just "grow alone" by themselves. The infringing farmers took concerted action, over several years, to isolate and propagate the seeds, and then benefited from the patented gene by spraying their fields with glyphosate.

                    Sorry, but bullshit.

                    There have been numerous instances of natural [organicconsumers.org] pollination [earthandindustry.com] contaminating other people's crops and Monstanto suing them.

                    This isn't a case of someone ripping off their seed and using their chemicals -- this is a case of farmers who aren't using their seeds or chemicals (in some case organic farmers who have never used it).

                    Because the problem becomes that wind, bees, and every other natural way plants get pollinated can cross pollinate into other fields, and Monstanto ends up suing.

                    Monsanto are greedy asshats, and their product is contaminating other people's farms, and then they sue because your crop has their gene in it when you did nothing at all.

                    So unless Monsanto can find a way to keep their stuff from contaminating other stuff (which they won't because it's a cash cow), this will continue to end up where it isn't supposed to be through no fault of the people who own the crops.

                    Monsanto owns the patent on a gene, and genes can spread through natural methods quite readily.

                    Someone can plant Monsanto seed miles away and have it pollinate your crops, and then you get sued. This is not a case of someone actively using Monsanto's crap, it's people who in many cases are avoiding it.

                    Monsanto sucks balls.

              • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:51PM (#42891075)
                Build a house on my land and see what happens to it.
              • Patent law does not apply to anything homemade by end users themselves, it only applies to commercial products.

            • by xiando (770382) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:07PM (#42890695) Homepage Journal

              I'm not. If it grew on my land, it's mine... Case closed

              Sadly, no, not in the USA. Search and you'll find plenty of cases where farmers planted their own seeds and got their fields infected with GMO from the farm next to it or something like that. These are farmers who did not kill everything but GMO in their fields with Roundup.

              If I was growing natural seeds and my land got infected by Monsanto then I would assume that Monsanto owed me for damages. But not in the USA

          • > there have been instances of Monsanto claiming that farmers who simply have their seeds in their field, even through natural spreading, owe them a fee

            Really? Every case like this I've dug into involved some action by the farmer to collect and select seed.

            So I'd be interested if you have a concrete example.

            • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

              by xiando (770382)

              So I'd be interested if you have a concrete example.

              Since you can't use a search engine or look in other posts in this thread.. here is a cut and paste for you:

              http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/25/percy-schmeiser-farmer-who-beat-monsanto.aspx [mercola.com]

              It's been years and years since I first saw a documentary about the criminal Monsanto which numerous examples, interviews, etc. This isn't news and I find it amazing that you are actually trying to dispute Monsantos criminal activity.

              • by paul.hatchman (958948) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:36PM (#42890955)
                Really?

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Schmeiser [wikipedia.org] says that:

                "He testified that he then harvested that crop, saved it separately from his other harvest, and intentionally planted it in 1998"

                So perhaps you could use your superior search engine skills to find an actual, real example of a farmer being sued by Monsanto that did not intentionally harvest and plant patented seeds?

                • by xiando (770382) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @07:16AM (#42894339) Homepage Journal
                  Did you even read the whole article? Do you even read? Quotes from the article:

                  Monsanto GM infecting farms in Germany:

                  2010: Monsanto's GM corn was discovered across 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) in seven German states. Since Germany doesn't allow GM corn to be planted, the farmers had to destroy their crops. These farmers had to "eat" their losses, as the seed companies refused to accept liability for the contamination.

                  Monsanto GM infecting farms in Spain:

                  2007: Pollen drift from GM maize (MON810) fields were found to have contaminated hundreds of conventional and organic farmers in Spain, the only country in the EU that allows GM maize to be cultivated.

                  Most if not all of the EU doesn't want Monsanto GM but it somehow manages to infect EU farms anyway.

        • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:44PM (#42891021)

          I am no fan of Monsanto, but this is a very one-sided statement. These farmers knew full well that they were planting GMO seed, they knew that Monsanto had a patent on it, and they took full advantage of the GMO by

          Wait, you didn't read the article did you...

          However, farmers are able to buy excess soybeans from local grain elevators, many of which are likely to be Roundup Ready seeds. One of Bowman's trips to such a grain elevator put him in Monsanto’s sights. ...

          Monsanto has claimed it maintains patent rights on its genetically modified seeds, even if sold by a third party such as a grain elevator. The company also said this protection extends for generations down, which means it owns seeds that are 'descendants' of original Monsanto seeds.

          So one bag of Monsanto derived grain in every grain elevator means (to your way of thinking) that Monsanto hence forth owns all see stock in the entire country? Or the entire planet? Forever?

          Genetic modification isn't the only way to make new crops. Cross breeding (the original form of genetic modification) also works. Does this mean the University of Minnesota owns every Honey Crisp [wikipedia.org] apple seed in the world?

          I suspect you strongly believe in the first sale doctrine when it comes to books, records, and video games, but some how this is different?
          Have you really thought this through?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Dunbal (464142) *
          You say glyphosate in bold italics, as if "Round Up" was only ever used on Monsanto crops. Round Up is possibly the most popular herbicide on the market and every farmer uses it.
        • by buss_error (142273) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @06:14AM (#42894051) Homepage Journal

          I own a farm. I do not buy seed from Monsanto. Never have. I refuse to on moral grounds. Yet I am sued by Monsanto every 2 to 4 years. Their "inspectors" trespass on my property, collect samples from 50 to 200 plants, and if only ONE has their GMO dna, I get sued. The farmer next to me buys exclusively Monsanto seed.

          You figure it out. I have.

          In the near future, anyone found on my property that doesn't have permission to be there... well, it won't be pretty.

    • by theVarangian (1948970) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:13PM (#42890125)

      Monsanto takes .. And that's about all you have to say.

      That's harsh, I'm sure they give generously to the politicians who enable their business practices.

    • Some corporations have a slightly different version of the Google motto...
    • Monstanto is to Farming as Scientology is to Religion.

  • New World Odor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jameshuckabone (2648439) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:09PM (#42890071) Homepage
    Why is it that today almost every story on Slashdot is about our frog-in-slowly-heated-water society.
    • Re:New World Odor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Verloc (119412) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:17PM (#42890167)

      Why is it that today almost every story on Slashdot is about our frog-in-slowly-heated-water society.

      Because every once in a while the temperature rises a little more than usual and the frog notices.

    • /. is smarter than the average pond?

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Why is it that today almost every story on Slashdot is about our frog-in-slowly-heated-water society.

      Because its hard to avoid this nowadays, doh. (
      And "odor" is a polite and mild term: to be precise, one should use "stench" for how the today's world smells like... ummm... or is it my socks only?)

  • Is their engineered seed so much better that it's worth the 300% price hikes?
    • by dbc (135354) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:19PM (#42890187)

      Actually, it does pencil out. Hybred and genetically engineered seeds do produce signficantly higher yields, and in some cases reduce need for pestricides. They reduce risk by being drought resistant. Seed cost is just one of many costs of getting a crop into the ground and getting the harvest out. Fuel, fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, land rent (paid or opportunity cost) and labor all need to be accounted for.

      Hybred seeds have been around for ages, and with maize, there is natural intellecual property protection, because the hybred is 'unstable', that is, you can't replant the seeds from the crop that you grow because the resulting maize plants are sterile and/or deformed. Of course, they can be stabalized with a final cross, but seed producers don't do that. Soy beans, OTOH, can not be produced in an unstable hybred. So a farmer can keep part of his bean crop and plant that as seed next year. With the advent of genetically modified soy seed, Monsanto quit *selling* soy seed, and started *licensing* soy seed.

    • Here's the thing with their seed. It does one of two things generally: one produces an insecticide internally so if any insect eats the plant, it dies. This is specifically the BT variant GMO. The other is resistant to Monsanto's other product, Roundup. That allows farmers to spray everything with this herbicide and everything is suppose to die except the resistant stuff. That's the marketed advantages. There's nothing about making the product better for _consumers_ outside of seemingly reduced prices
    • by sunking2 (521698)
      The price of seeds is pretty insignificant compared to the rest of hte operation. Which is why they have to use stats in %, because if they really told you the price you'd say, 'so what?'
  • What can we DO? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anthony_greer (2623521) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:11PM (#42890095)

    I am sure most people are aware of and angry about monsanto's practices and products, but I am tired of just being angry and talking to my friends who all agree...what can we do about it? Even the progressive wonderland of Ca cant get a simple GMO labling law passed, is there anything anyone can DO to change it?

    Letters to Congress - HAH, they are paid for already.
    Stop buying their product - Cant, no way to tell what it is in...
    Go Organic: and pay $15 / Lb for fruit at Whole Paycheck, er uh Foods? no thanks...

    So what can we DO?

    • Re:What can we DO? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kheldan (1460303) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:13PM (#42890123) Journal

      what can we do?

      Surround Monsanto's corporate headquarters, drag all the top execs out, cut their heads off, stick them on pikes as a warning to all other corporations?

    • by dbc (135354)

      What exactly concerns you about GMO grains?

      • Re:What can we DO? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by femtobyte (710429) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:30PM (#42890309)

        Perhaps the fact that their deployment is tied to concentrating control over the world food supply in the hands of a single viciously greedy corporation?

      • General concerns you've no doubt heard about a million times aside... Can't we just disagree with their business practices?

    • Re:What can we DO? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:37PM (#42890401)

      I live in Kansas and I for one have very little sympathy for these farmers. They hoist these corporations up on their shoulders and carry them to Washington to turn around and stiff their communities. Small towns all over the Midwest are evaporating because the citizens are inexplicably voting to peel back all of the liberal reforms from the Great Depression that protected their livelihoods. Now, all their kids are fleeing to the cities without the slightest notion of returning. There are small towns where the largest source of income is Social Security!

    • Re:What can we DO? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:47PM (#42890491)

      What can we do about it?

      Invalidate all genetic patents?

      I don't get how /. can be so united against software patents and yet don't see the simple yet effective solution over GMOs.

    • by Aguazul2 (2591049)

      Here in Peru, the government knows they've upset someone because the main transport routes are barricaded and there are crowds throwing stones. Same with France. Seems like US authorities/government is like a child who always gets his way. It's going to be tough to crack, but it needs to learn its place -- subordinate to the will of the people. It's going to be a lot messier with all those guns around -- and maybe the government likes it that way. The more dangerous it is to protest, the less people will d

    • by couchslug (175151)

      In some cases, grow your own.

      Victory Gardens in WWII produced vast amounts of food.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:23PM (#42890231)
    Develop and patent gene. Release gene into wild. Sue hapless farmers who's crops are infected with Monsanto's patented jumping genes. Soon no one will be able to grow anything without a multinational giving consent and taking a big cut. That is a world I don't want to live in. It's needs to stop right now!
    • by gmuslera (3436)
      That business model goes to other industries too. We are a fertile field for memes like the music and stories from movies. And if we try to do what is in our nature to do, like spreading that meme in any way, we got sued or forced to buy the permission to use that meme from them.
  • by sunking2 (521698) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:33PM (#42890337)
    So God made a farmer to sue.
  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:45PM (#42890465)

    Better story at npr, please stop linking to RT.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/10/15/162949288/farmer-tackling-monsantos-seed-policy-gets-a-day-in-supreme-court [npr.org]

    'He also took advantage of the gene. It allowed him to spray Roundup (or a generic version of the same weedkiller), which made controlling weeds relatively cheap and easy.'

    If you are buying leftover seed and harvested seed it's one thing. If you spray it with Roundup, you are using it as Roundup-ready seed and you are thus utilizing the value of Monsanto's invention. Why should you not pay for the enhanced features of Monsanto's seed if you use them?

    If you don't use them, the Monsanto doesn't sue. So you can buy and harvest seed, just use it as regular seed, not Roundup-ready seed.

    • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:28PM (#42890875)

      If you are buying leftover seed and harvested seed it's one thing. If you spray it with Roundup, you are using it as Roundup-ready seed and you are thus utilizing the value of Monsanto's invention. Why should you not pay for the enhanced features of Monsanto's seed if you use them?

      If I Ford sells you a car, you run it into a pole, and I buy a few salvaged parts such as the brakes and use them to make a dune-buggy. The various elements of those parts are covered by patents, and I'm taking advantage of the functionality of those patents by using the parts - e.g. I'm using the brakes as brakes.

      Should Ford now be able to sue me for patent infringement?

      Remember, the parts I used were paid for in full, including any patent licensing to use them when YOU bought the car in the first place. I am not making copies of the parts, I am using the actual original parts that you were sold.

    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:46PM (#42891031)

      Why should you not pay for the enhanced features of Monsanto's seed if you use them?

      Because they're seeds, and presumably Monsanto sold them to you at some point or at least sold them to someone else? I'm not really seeing why Montanto should be able to extract money from people merely because they're making use of seeds.

  • socialism!
  • World domination (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kevin Burtch (13372) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:21PM (#42890815)

    Monsanto produces seed that they cannot control. Cross-pollination contaminates even the most carefully selected organic crops. The plants produce a product that is essentially the sum of the egg and pollen, which means it contains Monsanto's infection. Monsanto then trespasses on the farmers' properties, stealing "samples", waits 2 years so the farmers have no way to prove their innocence, then sues them for every last penny they have. This is their MO and is essentially making a process (seed reuse) used for countless thousands of years, illegal.

    In any civilized world, the farmers would be able to sue Monsanto over the infection and loss of a valuable crop. Instead, they're ruined.

    Think any of this is made up? You need to read the lawsuits and not Monsanto's propaganda.
    Think the goal of the genetic modifications is high yield? You need to read more on that too... Google "roundup-ready"... Its there for one purpose, so they can dump megadoses of roundup (poison) onto the crops without killing them.

    Think my use of "infection" is out of line? Read up on the process. They took a gene they discovered in a bacteria and used a virus to insert it into the plant's genes.
    Notice I used the word "discovered" and not "invented"... They did not invent the gene that they patented, but then that's true of many of their patents. They've patented many naturally occurring plants and animals. Yes, animals (google Germany Monsanto large hogs).

    For those who don't believe the contamination is out of control, google "wild canola Monsanto percentage" (if you're too lazy, 86% of "wild" canola has at least one modified gene from Monsanto, and many have two (2nd from another company), which means multiple generations of contamination). This is complete and total loss of control of a contagion. It won't be long before wild canola is extinct.

    The fact that this company has not been brought up on countless charges for the above actions is beyond comprehension.

  • by BlueCoder (223005) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:32PM (#42890915)

    I don't really like Monsanto but it seems to me from a legal standpoint they are suing the wrong person. It sounds like a flaw in their licensing. They don't just need to get signatures from farmers but also from those they sell to such that they will not sell the product for replanting. This obviously needs to go all the way down to even customers in supermarkets. A good thing for customers that GMO labeling.

    It is possible that the court could even allow continued generations of crops for future seeds so long as whomever sells the seeds in the future does not use genetic testing for seed selection. Should end up with at least 95 percent equivalent seed for farmers using roundup.

    And 23 million? Seems like an awfully small number. But I really don't expect them to collect very much money as most of the farmers will likely go bankrupt just like the guy getting sued in the article. Given the solution that Monsanto just needs to get everyone in the supply chain to agree not to replant I think the US Supreme Court will let it go.

    And it's wrong that if there were no genetic patents that GMO's would not be developed. I think farmer organizations as a group would invest in research and development. And McDonald's and other large commercial chains would also likely invest as it would reduce the costs of their suppliers.

    • Monsanto doesn't discriminate... They sue the seed washers into the ground too.
      And exactly how are the seed washers and such supposed to be able to tell the difference?
      It's not like the seeds have Monsanto's corporate logo on them.

  • by DigitalSorceress (156609) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:04PM (#42891189)

    All I can say is ... those greedy bastards... they OWN the patent to Roundup, right? So why do they need to charge coming and going??? why can't they just let the gene get into whatever seeds it can and then just make a killing selling Roundup since everyones crops will already be "Roundup Ready"?

    Noooooo! that's not the greediest possible stance... they have to get you coming and going and then sue folks who end up with their seeds on their farms due to ... contamination?

    Seriously, this is everything that is wrong with our patent laws and our wholesale selling of our government to big business. /GAH!

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