Protecting Small Farmers

To explain Monsanto’s dominance in the agribusiness sector, one can look at their market share:
80% of U.S. corn seeds
90% of U.S. soybeans seeds
In 2014, the company brought in $15.9 billion in sales.

But the underlying practice that leads to Monsanto’s financial success?

Their current ownership of 1700 patented seeds.

When farmers buy Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready seeds, they also sign an agreement stating they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seeds they initially bought. This means that every year, farmers are required to buy new seeds. Boom – instant cash flow for Monsanto.

For decades, Monsanto has been known to conduct secret investigations targeting small farmers. This article recounts a story of a private investigator falsely accusing a store owner of violating Monsanto’s seed patent…even when the store owner wasn’t a farmer or seed dealer. The suit was eventually dropped because the investigator mistook the store owner for someone else but Monsanto didn’t issue an any kind of apology nor paid for his legal fees. This is just one of many accounts. According to a 2012 report from the Center of Food Safety, Monsanto has filed 142 lawsuits alleging farmers in violation of its Technology Agreements and patents of GM seeds.

One can argue that injecting chemicals into seeds hardly count as “creating” a seed. On Monsanto’s website, they try to defend themselves by claiming intellectual property.

“Patents are necessary to ensure that we are paid for our products and for all the investments we put into developing these products…Without the protection for patents there would be little incentive for privately-owned companies to pursue and re-invest in innovation.”

This 2014 Fortune article has led me to believe that Monsanto’s business is virtually indestructible. If corn crops aren’t going well, farmers switch over to planting soybeans – a market that is 90% owned by Monsanto. Monsanto even makes additional earnings from their rivals they licensee technology to. And even when its patents expire, they sell farmers newer, “innovative” (and more expensive) seeds.

Is Monsanto acting properly to defend their intellectual rights or are they ruthlessly victimizing small farmers in order to protect their monopoly?

An anti-Monsanto crop circle made by farmers and volunteers in the Philippines. By Melvyn Calderon/Greenpeace HO/A.P. Images.

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2 thoughts on “Protecting Small Farmers

  1. Okay, you’ve got me interested in this monopoly Monsanto has going on! Your facts are alarming as well as question-provoking, thus giving me the desire to learn more. From a first time reader’s perspective, I would comment that your post was a little unclear upon first read. I think this was your first post, right? You assumed that the reader was already aware of Monsanto and of what it is doing. I suggest giving a more intentional introduction that allows readers to understand for themselves who and what Monsanto is before giving your impression. This is just to give some clarity to readers, not to make your post more objective. I think it is very important for you to express your individual ideas of acts committed by Monsanto and the effects they have on farmers. I do like your tone in this post; it is direct and expository. My only critique is that you could implement clarity in a very purposeful and creative way! Basically, you could be more detailed if you wish because maybe most readers are not so familiar with your topic. Also, the image at the end is a little piece of illustrative clarity. Nice!

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  2. Thanks, I definitely think I could have explained what Monsanto’s business is in greater detail. They’re a agricultural company that specializes in GM seeds, synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides. In my second post, I wrote about how one’s perception on how a business should be run depends on that person’s definition of capitalism and business ethics. Basically, I think there’s a huge difference between running a business just for profiting and running a business that is sustainable, promotes fair labor practices, safe working conditions, and has an innate responsibility to make the communities around them better. My blog this week compared sustainable practices to that of Monsanto’s and hopefully it gives people a clearer example of how Monsanto can operate in a more ethical way.

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