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Published on February 20th, 2013 | by -swansong-1
Monsanto:The Seeds of Revolt
In this article we will discuss a recent Supreme Court challenge leveled at Monsanto and the rights they claim to the seeds farmers plant.
The late American novelist James Arthur Baldwin once said…
“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.”
For agri-giant Monsanto, that man may be 75 year-old Indiana soybean farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman.
After finding himself bankrupt due to an unrelated real estate matter, Bowman was sued by Monsanto for an alleged breach of their patent on Round-Up ready soybeans. Bowman lost the case and was ordered to pay Monsanto $84,456. With no money, no income and no way to ply the one trade he had known his entire life, Bowman became the epitome of a man with nothing to lose.
In the next few weeks Bowman and Monsanto’s lawyers will argue in front of the US Supreme Court, an issue that deals with one of the most fundamental questions of modern farming: who controls the rights to the seeds planted in the ground.
When Bowman – or thousands of other farmers just like him – plant Monsanto’s seeds in the ground they are obliged to only harvest the resulting crop, not keep any of it back for planting the next year. So each season, the farmer has to buy new Monsanto seeds to plant.
Bowman, who has farmed the same stretch of land for most of the past four decades and grew up on a farm, ended up on Monsanto’s radar for using such seeds – bought from a local grain elevator, rather than Monsanto – for year after year and replanting part of each crop. He did not do so for his main crop of soybeans, but rather for a smaller “second late season planting” usually planted on a field that had just been harvested for wheat. “We have always had the right to go to an elevator, buy some ‘junk grain’ and use it for seed if you desire,” Bowman said.
To put it mildly, Monsanto disagrees. The firm insists that it maintains patent rights on its genetically modified seeds even if sold by a third party with no restrictions put on its use – even if the seeds are actually only descendants of the original Monsanto seeds.
To put the bolded section above into context, imagine someone sold you a purebred dog. Then you bred that dog. Then the person that sold you the dog came back and said they owned all the puppies sired by your dog. You’d likely laugh in their face. Well, Monsanto doesn’t like being laughed at.
Odds are, as you’re reading this, you’re sitting in a home, in a town or city, surrounded by 1000s of other people much like yourself. While you and your neighbors may move into newer or larger homes you will most likley remain in the town/city in which you live.
Some 10,000 years ago life was much different. Back then our ancient ancestors were hunter/gatherers, forever moving from one place to another in an effort to keep up with the wild game that they relied upon for food, clothing, shelter and tools. Around that very same time a new discovery combined with the foresight of a few of our more innovative ancestors would forever change the way human beings lived and would “sow the seeds” of what we have come to know as human civilization.
Not only did our ancestors learn to plant seed and harvest crops but they also understood that saving seeds from the healthiest, most productive plants was the best way to assure the best possible crops the following season. And so it went for thousands of years. My, how things have changed.
Monsanto:The Seeds of Revolt
The agricultural giant Monsanto has sued hundreds of small farmers in the United States in recent years in attempts to protect its patent rights on genetically engineered seeds that it produces and sells, a new report said on Tuesday.
The study, produced jointly by the Center for Food Safety and the Save Our Seeds campaigning groups, has outlined what it says is a concerted effort by the multinational to dominate the seeds industry in the US and prevent farmers from replanting crops they have produced from Monsanto seeds.
In its report, called Seed Giants vs US Farmers, the CFS said it had tracked numerous law suits that Monsanto had brought against farmers and found some 142 patent infringement suits against 410 farmers and 56 small businesses in more than 27 states. In total the firm has won more than $23m from its targets, the report said.
Monsanto’s pathological drive to protect it’s profits and corner the world’s food supply have put immense amounts of stress and pressure on farmers all over the world. Without a doubt the most striking example of this pressure is the astonishing number of suicides committed by Indian farmers who have been locked into a never ending cycle of seed purchses and the chemicals ncessary to assure their growth.
Released by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University’s (NYU) Law School, a recent report explains that, on average, one Indian farmer commits suicide every 30 minutes in response to the devastation caused by the effects of globalization on agriculture, and genetically-modified organisms (GMO) in particular.
The report (in pdf form), entitled, Every Thirty Minutes: Farmer Suicides, Human Rights and the Agrarian Crisis in India, explains that Indian policy has stripped many farmers of their livelihoods by greatly decreasing the value of their crops. Combined with the introduction of GM crops that trap farmers into an endless cycle of debt without providing any substantial benefits, and you end up with a society marked by despair, hopelessness, and an increase in suicides.
Thankfully there is nothing to fear with such a progressive and socially concious president in the White House, right? Ehh, not so much.
Early this spring, while the world was distracted by Egypt’s uprising, President Barack Obama pushed the Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deregulate genetically engineered alfalfa and sugar beets in the United States. The USDA came through as he directed, totally deregulating these Monsanto-patented genes in early February.
In so doing, Obama and the USDA have chosen to override and ignore decisions and injunctions made by the U.S. Supreme Court that banned planting of genetically engineered alfalfa and sugar beets without consideration of the Environmental Impact Assessments, which showed high risks to organic and conventional (chemical) farmers.
One man who has been bringing the issues of environment and sustainability to the forefront of modern discourse is Canada’s national treasure, David Suzuki.
In an interview with the True Food Foundation, Suzuki said anyone who claims genetically engineered food is perfectly safe is “either unbelievably stupid, or deliberately lying,” adding: “The reality is, we don’t know. The experiments simply haven’t been done, and now we have become the guinea pigs…. I am most definitely not in favor of release of GMOs in the food stream and given that it’s too late, I favor complete labeling of GMO products.”
About now you may be asking yourself what, if anything, is being done to assure the future of the seeds upon which we all rely for the food necessary for our survival. There is an answer to that question. Whether it will make you feel more secure, is another matter.
Are you aware of the Arctic Circle Doomsday Seed Vault? Technically it’s the Svalbard International Seed Vault. The media has hailed it as an attempt to create a doomsday ark containing a wide variety of seeds to ensure the future of agriculture in the event of widespread crop disasters. A closer look behind the curtains finds some suspicious characters heavily vested in the vault’s activity.
The doomsday vault donors listed include the Gates Foundation, Rockefeller, Monsanto, and Syngenta, an international counterpart to Monsanto based in Switzerland.
If the donor’s list is any indication of the character of the organizations involved, I’m afraid I’m not feeling exceptionally safe and secure.
Frankly, this article could top out at 6000 words were I to continue to write about the possible dangers of GMOs, the expansion of genetic modifications to our animal food supplies or even the genetic modifications of the non-food members of our animal kingdom.
It might sound like something out of a low-budget horror film, but the US Food and Drug Administration really is considering whether or not they should allow scientists to send thousands upon thousands of genetically altered insects into the wild.
If all goes as planned, mosquitos modified by some serious Frankenstein treatment will be introduced into the Florida Keys and ideally mate with skeeters that carry the deadly dengue fever, passing along in the process a fatal birth defect that will hopefully eradicate the offspring before birth. From there, scientists say they expect the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with the dangerous disease will be decimated in only a few generations without causing any major implications for the native ecosystem.
But, instead of writing endlessly about an issue well covered by people far more informed about this subject, I will offer you this informative and well produced documentary about Monsanto and their strangle hold on the planet’s agriculture.
The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the “revolving door”. One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company’s vice president for public policy.
If you have not yet seen this documentary I recommend you take the time to view it. If you’ve seen it before, please pass it along to your friends.
The time has long since passed for us to take a more active roll in our food production and the monitoring of those with whom we have entrusted it’s future. Fortunately for us, men like Mr. Baldwin have taken it upon themselves to wage this battle on our behalf.
I wish him the very best of luck and will be eagerly awaiting positive news of his efforts.
The Supreme Court has ruled on Mr. Bowman’s case and the news is not good.
As disheartening as this ruling is I must confess to not being the least bit surprised. When a former Monsanto lawyer is not forced to recuse himself from hearing the case you get a sense that propriety and justice are not high on the list of importance.