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.