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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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  • New World Odor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jameshuckabone (2648439) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:09PM (#42890071) Homepage
    Why is it that today almost every story on Slashdot is about our frog-in-slowly-heated-water society.
  • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:10PM (#42890089)
    Yeah.. when they can charge people who never bought their product because it naturally spread...
  • Re:What can we DO? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kheldan (1460303) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:13PM (#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 theVarangian (1948970) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:13PM (#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.

  • Re:New World Odor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Verloc (119412) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:17PM (#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.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:23PM (#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 ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:27PM (#42890285)

    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.

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

    by femtobyte (710429) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:30PM (#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?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:33PM (#42890351)

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

  • by Abstrackt (609015) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:40PM (#42890423)

    Saving seed for replanting is not standard farming practice.

    I grew up on a farm and we always saved at least some portion of each year's crop to plant the following year; you're pissing your money away otherwise. I can introduce you to any number of grain, bean or vegetable farmers who will tell you they do the same. Granted, certain varieties from large scale breeders won't grow as well the second year for any number of reasons but seed saving is very much a standard practice.

  • by zennyboy (1002544) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:43PM (#42890449)

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

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

    by WWJohnBrowningDo (2792397) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:47PM (#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 hibiki_r (649814) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:12PM (#42890751)

    It depends on the crop: Replanting corn, while possible, will get you way worse yields than not. Pretty much every commercial seed you can buy, whether GMO or not, is a hybrid, so a second generation will not have the same genetic makeup as the previous generation. So replanting corn is not exactly good business proposition, even without any licensing issues: You just get worse plants.

    With, say, soybeans, it's not that case at all. Soybeans have perfect flowers, so they self pollinate. This makes it relatlively expensive to try new crosses, as you have a very small window to manipulate the flowers manually, and even then, you won't have a very high success rate. But once you have a cross you like, going from a plant to a field's worth is very cheap. In that way, soybeans are a bit like software.

    Therefore, without licensing agreements and IP, it'd make very little sense to spend money developing soybeans specifically, since everyone that you sell a seed to becomes instantly able to compete with you, just like if you tried to sell GPL derived software: You better make all the money you expect on that first sale. So it'd only make sense to do development for the same reasons it makes sense to develop GPL apps: Mainly because you are a user too, and distributing your work makes it more valuable to you than keeping it. In agricultural terms, that'd only happen if you planted your own crops for sale, and you had the majority of the market.

    So really, remove IP protection, and development would drop like a rock. Whether that'd be a good or a bad thing, or whether there's a different balance of IP that would provide more utility to society is a different story.

  • World domination (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kevin Burtch (13372) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:21PM (#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.

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

    by PRMan (959735) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:26PM (#42890861)
    Given the way my weight dropped when I quit eating carbs (70 pounds in 9 months and I was only 238 to begin with), I would say it's the high volume of carbs in packaged foods. One person said, "shop the edges of the supermarket" and they were right. The milk, cheese, meat and produce are at the edges (even the nuts are typically by the alcohol on one side). The ENTIRE center of the store is virtually nothing but empty carbs in various forms.
  • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:28PM (#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 ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:40PM (#42890993)

    Search and you'll find plenty of cases where farmers planted their own seeds and got their fields infected with GMO ...

    Actually, if you search, you will find precisely zero cases where this happened. If you want to prove me wrong, then cite one case where a farmer was sued for unintentional infringement.

  • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:44PM (#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?

  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:46PM (#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.

  • Re:New World Odor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Omestes (471991) <omestes&gmail,com> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @02:34AM (#42892877) Homepage Journal

    Next time you go buy a loaf of bread, ask yourself if Monsanto had it's hand in any of the ingredients. In fact, why don't you ask that about EVERYTHING you eat!

    Because we're legally not allowed to know if we have GMO in our foods.... Because it helps consumer choice.

    Ahem.

    This would be funny, if when this was a story here awhile back, most people supporting limited choice as a means of increasing choice.

  • by Burz (138833) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:01AM (#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 ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:43AM (#42893709)

    "took full advantage of the GMO by spraying their crops with glyphosate"

    Please show sources for this assertition. It is not mentioned in TFA.

    Sure, here you go [cornell.edu]. From the citation: Bowman also bought seeds from a local commodity seed provider and planted a second crop. Finding that the majority of seeds purchased from the local provider were herbicide resistant, Bowman also treated them with herbicide.

    So he bought commodity seeds, sprayed them with glyphosate to kill the non-GMO plants, and then harvested the pure GMO seeds to plant the following year. Bowman has not denied any of that, but has instead claimed that he had a right to do it.

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