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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 @08:08PM (#42890055)

    And that's about all you have to say.

  • by dbc (135354) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:19PM (#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.

  • by jythie (914043) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:34PM (#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 wiredlogic (135348) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:35PM (#42890373)

    When you buy GM seed from Monsanto and others you sign a contract agreeing not to hold over seed for replanting. That take care of the legal responsibilities of Monsanto's customers.

    In the case currently heading for the Supreme Court the farmer in question never planted GM seed purchased under contract. He unwittingly acquired GM seeds for use as a second planting by buying leftovers from local silos. Because all the granaries in the country are contaminated with GM seed it is effectively impossible to avoid buying product that doesn't "infringe" on someone's patents. That leaves a well meaning farmer with fields ready to be planted in a bit of a pickle if he doesn't want to pay the Monsanto tax.

  • Re:What can we DO? (Score:4, Informative)

    by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:35PM (#42890375) Homepage
    No doubt you're on a list now. Better watch out for drones. But you are correct.
  • by YesIAmAScript (886271) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:45PM (#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 Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:58PM (#42890607)

    When farmers purchase Monsanto seeds, they sign a contract and agree, in writing, not to save seed.

    No, when farmers purchase Monsanto seeds from MONSANTO they sign a contract like that. This case has nothing to do with that scenario.

    This guy bought seed from the local grain elevator - seed that was sold on the open market without Monsanto's involvement and no advertising that the seed was monsanto tainted seed. He had no contract with Monsanto for those seeds or any of their precursors.

  • by FrankSchwab (675585) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:03PM (#42890649) Journal

    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.

    Citation

    Sure. Let me google that for you:
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/12/25/percy-schmeiser-farmer-who-beat-monsanto.aspx [mercola.com]

  • by xiando (770382) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:07PM (#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

  • by DRJlaw (946416) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:29PM (#42890883)

    In the case currently heading for the Supreme Court the farmer in question never planted GM seed purchased under contract. He unwittingly acquired GM seeds for use as a second planting by buying leftovers from local silos.

    Liar, liar, pants on fire. If you were representing the farmer in question, you would be disbarrred, since the farmer has admitted to planting GM seed, intentionally replanting GM seed, and "unwittingly" treating his crop with glycophosphate, which would kill any non-GM soybean. Spefically, as reported by the Court of Appeals [findlaw.com] (thank Slashdot for the odd character mappings):

    Pioneer Hiâ"Bred (âoePioneerâ) is one of Monsanto's licensed seed producers. â In 2002, Pioneer sold Pioneer Hiâ"Bred® brand seeds containing the Roundup Ready® technology to Bowman, a grower in Knox County, Indiana. â In making the sale, Pioneer required Bowman to execute the âoePioneer Hiâ"Bred Technology Agreement,â which contains language and restrictions identical to the Technology Agreements discussed above. â See J.A. 673. â Bowman purchased from Pioneer and planted seeds containing the Roundup Ready® technology each year, beginning as early as 1999. â Bowman planted Roundup Ready® seeds as his first-crop in each growing season during the years 1999 through 2007. â Consistent with the terms of the Technology Agreement, Bowman did not save seed from his first-crop during any of those years.

    In 1999, Bowman also purchased commodity seed from a local grain elevator, Huey Soil Service, for a late-season planting, or âoesecond-crop.â â Because Bowman considered the second-crop to be a riskier planting, he purchased the commodity seed to avoid paying the significantly higher price for Pioneer's Roundup Ready® seed. â That same year, Bowman applied glyphosate-based herbicide to the fields in which he had planted the commodity seeds to control weeds and to determine whether the plants would exhibit glyphosate resistance. â He confirmed that many of the plants were, indeed, resistant. â In each subsequent year, from 2000 through 2007, Bowman treated his second-crop with glyphosate-based herbicide. â Unlike his first-crop, Bowman saved the seed harvested from his second-crop for replanting additional second-crops in later years. â He also supplemented his second-crop planting supply with periodic additional purchases of commodity seed from the grain elevator. â Bowman did not attempt to hide his activities, and he candidly explained his practices with respect to his second-crop soybeans in various correspondence with Monsanto's representatives.

    Well-meaning farmer? Hardly. He knowlingly adopted his replanting practices and has (so far) lost.

  • by paul.hatchman (958948) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:36PM (#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 Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:49PM (#42891059)
    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 ranpel (1255408) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @10:00PM (#42891155)
    Actually I believe that you're wrong. Monsanto authorizes their seed progeny to the elevators. The farmer that sold his seed to the grain elevator was allowed to do so contractually. Another farmer subsequently purchased seed from the grain elevator, with the Monsanto seed mixed in, and planted it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2013/feb/09/soybean-farmer-monsanto-supreme-court [guardian.co.uk]
  • by flimflammer (956759) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @10:20PM (#42891357)

    Of course what he likely means is spraying an otherwise lethal dose of glyphosate on the crops, as that is how you actually use Roundup on Monsanto GMO crops.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @12:09AM (#42892167) Homepage Journal

    Monstanto is to Farming as Scientology is to Religion.

    That's like saying Monsanto is to farming like cockroaches are to vermin. You're still badmouthing farmers.

  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Thursday February 14, 2013 @12:12AM (#42892177)

    Citation

    Sure. Let me google that for you:

    The person cited in your link, Percy Schmeiser [wikipedia.org], not only intentionally planted Monsanto patented seeds, but admitted doing it.

    So I am still waiting for a single citation for Monsanto suing anyone for unintentional infringement.

  • by andydread (758754) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:04AM (#42893013)
    This is the boiler-plate canned response from Monsanto Public Relations when they get called out on their GMO contaminating non GMO and organic fields and abusing patents to intimidate small farmers and seed cleaners out of business. Its boilerplate give it a rest already. People aren't going to swallow you PR attempt here. If I could avoid purchasing products based on Monsanto products I would. These people are slime.
  • by Rubinhood (977039) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:15AM (#42893069)

    > 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.

    See Percy Schmeiser's struggle against Monsanto (which took several years) here:
    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/ [percyschmeiser.com]

    "Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan Canada whose Canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto's Round-Up Ready Canola." Then Monsanto sued him.

    I cannot think of a more evil and greedy corporation than Monsanto and the likes. I thank God I live in a part of Europe where no GM crops are allowed.

  • by PostPhil (739179) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @03:16AM (#42893083)

    http://nelsonfarm.net/issue.htm [nelsonfarm.net]

    I would go through the trouble of going down the list, but Google already exists.

  • by ApplePy (2703131) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @05:20AM (#42893613)

    There's at least one of you on every fucking forum on the internet. How much do they pay you?

    Do you think we don't notice the very narrow range of threads you post on? Shit, I bet I've run across YOU before, with a different user name. Are you guys subcontractors, or do you work full time in PR? I'd say desperate college kids in some stupid major that will never pay anything (Communications!) trying to make a buck, or some such.

    I've seen you everywhere from extreme right-wing political forums to organic gardening BBSs. Same words, same phrasing, same links to the same few bullshit court cases. It's always EXACTLY the fucking same story from you fucks.

    Burn in hell.

  • by TaQ (561168) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @08:15AM (#42894333) Homepage

    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 seeds.

    And even organic farmers are in danger (2)(3). They affirm that their fields are cross-pollinated with genetic material from neighboring farms growing Monsanto crops. When the question is money, people are unfortunately creative. :-(

    (1) http://earthopensource.org/index.php/5-gm-crops-impacts-on-the-farm-and-environment/5-6-myth-roundup-is-a-benign-and-biodegradable-herbicide [earthopensource.org]
    (2) http://www.fooddigital.com/production/monsanto-wins-case-against-organic-growers [fooddigital.com]
    (3) http://www.rodale.com/research-feed/organic-vs-monsanto-organic-farmers-lose-right-protect-crops [rodale.com]

  • by xiando (770382) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @08:16AM (#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 gstoddart (321705) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @10:37AM (#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.

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