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Evil Monsanto Aggressively Sues Farmers for Saving Seeds

Farmers have always saved seeds from their harvest to sow the following year. But Monsanto and other big seed companies have changed the rules of the game.

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In a now legendary incident, Schmeiser's fields were contaminated by seeds from a neighbor's genetically modified Roundup Ready canola plants, which had blown onto his land. When the farmer, who was the subject of the 2009 film "David Versus Monsanto," saved the seeds from these "accidental migrants" for replanting, Monsanto sued him for patent infringement and won the case but received no damages, since the court determined that Schmeiser had gained no economic benefit from the incident. Later Schmeiser countersued Monsanto for "libel, trespass, and contamination of his fields with Roundup Ready Canola." But that case was dismissed.

Schmeiser, who reportedly spent more than  $400,000 on legal fees, says he can no longer use his strain of canola, which took him 50 years to develop, because he cannot prove that it doesn't include the Roundup Ready gene. 

Organic farmers complain that the drift of pollen and seeds from GMO fields invade their own crops, which is increasingly making it difficult for them to maintain their organic standards.

Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada noted on the Food Revolution Network, "Genetic pollution is  so prevalent in North and South America where GM crops are grown that the fields of conventional and organic growers are regularly contaminated with engineered pollen and losing certification. The canola and flax export market from Canada to Europe (hundreds of millions of dollars) were recently lost because of genetic pollution."

This kind of biological pollution has also happened in Mexico, where traditional corn plants (there are 150 unique varieties in the southern state of Oaxaca alone) were discovered to have been  contaminated by genes from transgenic "industrial corn" planted in nearby fields.

What effect this cross-pollination will have on the integrity of Mexico's staple crop is not yet known. But multiple studies have confirmed that it has already taken place in regions throughout Mexico. There is also anecdotal evidence of grotesquely deformed native corn plants which contained the  genetically modified genes.

A Monsanto brochure  boasts, "The good news is that practical experience clearly demonstrates that the coexistence of biotech, conventional and organic systems is not only possible, but it is peacefully occurring around the world."

The reality on the ground, however, tells a different story. Far from peacefully coexisting with other forms of agriculture, the new biotechnology is rapidly swallowing up traditional farming in the United States. GM cultivation, with its economies of scale, is proving the latest nail in the coffin of family farming.

Moreover, a small number of "high performing" GMOs increasingly dominate; fewer varieties of crops are being planted today than ever before. The Big Ag companies claim that they need patent protection to encourage the costly development of new seed varieties, but Freese told Truthout that Monsanto spends more buying up independent seed companies (to the tune of an estimated $960 million a year) than on its research and development budget.

The result of this monopolistic consolidation, according to critics, has been less innovation, rather than more. Not only are the companies spending less on creating new conventional crops, but publicly funded agricultural research and breeding, which for most of the 20th century was the main driver of agricultural development in the US,  declined precipitously in recent years, according to a recent study by the American Enterprise Institute. Perhaps worst of all, the creativity which fueled thousands of years of farmer experimentation becomes impossible when growers are prohibited from replanting seeds.

In the past, farmers selected seeds for traits they wanted to develop in their crops such as taste, size, nutrition and suitability to changing local growing conditions. This ongoing process of selection has led to the fabulous diversity of fruits, grains and vegetables which were developed by untold numbers of farmers over the centuries. Nowadays, however, that selection process is increasingly being frozen by a corporate agricultural system which selects for one trait alone - greater profitability.