Farmers and Growers Still Battle Corporate Seed Producers Including Monsanto

Farmer holding seeds Monsanto case

We have looked everywhere for an articles explaining the corporatization and “enclosure” as the writer below aptly puts it, of our food supply by controlling and patently seed production.  Here we have a few and some updates. In the midwest farmers have been harassed by lawsuits and threats from private goon squads with questionable or outright bogus claims by Monsanto and other seed companies that they’ve been illegally using their patented seeds.  What is behind the lawsuits (which usually bankrupt farmers completely or have them settling and agreeing to gag orders) is the effort of these seed companies to completely destroy the roots of natural agricultural production by eliminating the practice of saving seed or hybridizing seed on the farm.  By effectively banning pure fertile seed production the corporations hope to create a complete dependency on corporately factory produced seed that produces plants that are either sterile or produce non-viable seed.  Thus the farmer will have to return every year to the “company store” to purchase seed, creating a dependency not only on the seed companies but also on banking and finance.  Banking and finance already has had a huge hand in the corporatization of farming practices as the pressure to produce larger yields to feed huge interest and debt grows every year.

Not only does this article look at the issue but also highlights how some are fighting back:

Making Sense

Seeds of Change

Corporate Power, Grassroots Resistance, and the Battle Over the Food System

BY ELIZABETH FRASER AND ANURADHA MITTAL | March/April 2015

Over a decade ago, Dollars & Sense published the article “Genetic Engineering and the Privatization of Seeds,” by Anuradha Mittal and Peter Rossett, on genetic modification and its impact on the world food system (March/April 2001). In it, the authors asked, “will biotechnology feed the world?” while providing an overview of the landscape of corporate control, widening inequality, private property claims, and growing farmers’ resistance around the world. This article acts as a follow-up, highlighting some of the key developments in recent years.

For most of history, farmers have had control over their seeds: saving, sharing, and replanting them with freedom. Developments in the course of the 20th century, however, have greatly eroded this autonomy. Legal changes, ranging from the Plant Variety Protection Act (1970) in the United States to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), have systematically eroded farmers’ rights to save seeds for future use. By the end of 2012, Monsanto had sued 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in the United States for patent infringement, winning over $23 million in settlements. Here, we describe some of the key developments further intensifying corporate control over the food system. It is not, however, all bleak news. Civil society groups are using everything from grassroots protest to open-source licensing to ensure that the enclosure and privatization of seeds comes to an end.

Corporations Have Consolidated Their Control of Seeds and Agrochemicals

In 2011, just four transnational agri-businesses—Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, Syngenta, and Vilmorin (Groupe Limagrain)—controlled 58% of the commercial seed market. Four—Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, BASF, and Dow AgroSciences—controlled 62% of agrochemicals worldwide. The top six companies controlled 75% of all private plant breeding research, 60% of commercial seed sales, and 76% of the global agrochemical market. This consolidation of power has been aided by a large string of mergers and acquisitions, leading the Canada-based Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group) to conclude that “there just aren’t many seed companies left to buy.”

The World Bank, too, has played a role in this increased consolidation. In 2014, a report from the Oakland Institute provided details on the World Bank’s efforts to open African markets to private seed companies. (Full disclosure: The authors of this article both work at the Oakland Institute.) The report, titled “The World Bank’s Bad Business with Seed and Fertilizer in African Agriculture,” paints a stark picture of the possible consequences of these actions: removing farmers’ rights to save seeds and implementing intellectual property claims over seeds does not improve food security, but rather undermines farmers’ autonomy and further increases profits for the existing seed oligopoly.

Supposed Benefits of Genetically Modified (GM) Seeds Have Not Materialized

Two arguments often put forward in favor of GM seeds are the need to feed the world’s burgeoning population and the potential for these new seeds to reduce overall pesticide use. Neither of these claims promulgated by industry have proved true. Globally, we are currently producing more than enough food to adequately feed our population. However, that food isn’t being distributed fairly, and malnutrition remains staggering—805 million people worldwide. As the Canadian Biodiversity Action Network reminds us in its report “Will GM Crops Feed the World?” hunger is not usually a result of low food production, but rather a result of poverty. This points to a greater need to address issues of inequality, distribution, and access.

Arguments that genetically modified crops could reduce overall agrochemical use also remain unfounded, with the rise of herbicide-resistant weeds requiring more and more chemical cocktails for the GM crops to remain productive. A report from Food and Water Watch, “Superweeds: How Biotech Crops Bolster the Pesticide Industry,” notes that herbicide use on GM crops in the United States did initially fall in the late 1990s; however, once resistance in GM crops to the herbicide glyphosate (marketed by Monsanto under the trade name “RoundUp”) developed, total herbicide use skyrocketed, leading to greater net herbicide use over time.

Read the rest of the story: Seeds of Change

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One thought on “Farmers and Growers Still Battle Corporate Seed Producers Including Monsanto

  1. […] American farmers have suffered the bullying tactics of Monsanto and other seed companies in an obvious strategy to create a captive market for their seed […]

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