Get Your Gen Mo Out of My Food Yo: Part IV – Farmers who save seeds are soon sued
Farmers and Furious Curious Twists of Injustice
Farmers have been front and center pawns in the GM Food chess game. To their credit, farmers historically have a hard working life and little return for their investment of blood, sweat, tears and dollars. They spend their morning, days and evenings working, day in and day out, week after week, year after year, and the prospect of being part of a growing corporation could offer great appeal along with the aspiration of one day retiring. While yes, they are partly responsible for producing GM crops, they are also responding to the consumer’s demand and a corporation’s command.
Sadly, once again, Syndrome’s immoral wanton ways are masked by a facade of hope for the greater good. Global Exchange lists the top 14 ‘Most Wanted’ Human Rights violators for 2007 (I didn’t see a ‘Most Wanted’ list for 2008 or 2009). Monsanto is on that list for abuses of displacement, health violations, and child labor. According to Global Exchange, in India, an estimated 12, 400 children were working for Monsanto in cottonseed production as of 2007. Global Exchange adds how a number of (unspecified) children have died from exposure to pesticides.
The site Indianet shows numerous links if you’d like to read more on the matter of child labor and the cottonseed industry in India. Bayer, Monsanto, Unilever and Syngenta are listed numerous times. In 2003, these companies pledged to end child labor in Indian seed production.
However, in a letter sent February 2006, from Gerard Oonk, the director of the India Committee of the Netherlands, Oonk details how child labor is still an issue and how Monsanto is paying cottonseed farmers too little for these farmers to hire adults. The letter also asked several questions about child labor eradication. Monsanto’s response does not include answers to most of the questions Mr. Oonk asked. It does include two fairly lame efforts the company is making to eliminate child labor.
Monsanto has built a reputation as being one of the biggest corporate abusers of Human Rights –namely farmers – in modern times. In 2004, anti-GM soy activists claimed that the widespread use of Monsanto-engineered soy in Argentina displaced a large number of small farmers from the countryside who could not make a living since they could not afford GM seeds. Monsanto also forces farmers to buy new GM seeds every year. Learn more from Know More.
Farmers are not permitted to reuse seeds by seed corporations. This is considered patent infringement. Monsanto actually has private investigators who travel around the country to ensure farmers are not breaking the Monsanto law.
Farmers who Save Seeds are Soon Sued
Say that ten times fast.
For replanting soy or corn, farmers have had three choices:
- to buy normal/conventional seed (this is now almost gone for soy),
- to buy GE-seeds at an inflated cost (and growing higher); or
- to collect their own seeds to use for the next season.
Once a farmer is under contract with Monsanto, s/he is held in the clutches of a perpetual downward spiral. The farmers are then no longer allowed to reuse their seed and must year after year purchase GM seed from Monsanto. The fee increases even if the output does not. These farmers are bound by strict contracts that prohibit them from moving outside of the Monsanto perimeter not to mention the denying of natural law that they no longer claim ownership to the seeds of the crops they’ve grown.
In the Midwest, where Monsanto sells GM-corn and GM-soy, it also bought up the “normal seed” companies so farmers no longer have places to go for conventional corn or soy seed.
GM corn can cross pollinate with conventional corn over miles. For organic farmers, this can pose as a problem with maintaining the integrity of their corn while preventing the cross-pollination of contaminated corn. Yet, here’s the kicker, Monsanto has threatened or outright sued organic farmers after finding GM tainted plants in their crops. Check out an interesting and eye-opening discussion board from AgWeb.
NOW Monsanto is striving to eliminate one of the last farmers standing between humans and corporate seeds – the seed cleaner. The seed cleaner is an important cog in the wheel of farming. He or she prepares the seeds for the next season of planting. Meet poor farmer Moe. Moe Parr, a farmer and seed cleaner from Indiana, faced the Monsanto litigation giant in 2007.
Monsanto charges that Moe was intentionally cleaning GM soy seed. Through a series of intimidations and strangleholds, Moe settled out of court due to lack of resources. He still claims his innocence and has taken up advocacy to support other farmers.
AgWeb shares some chilling information of how Bt Cotton farmers in India are committing suicide because Monsanto sells Bt-cotton seed at 1000% higher than normal seeds, and they are going deeper into debt. Other sources share that 4000 farmers a year are ending their lives.
There are several stories of small non-GMO farm owners who are dealing with litigation from Monsanto with the claim that these farmers are unfairly profiting from Monsanto’s products. These farmers had their crops contaminated by the mere fact they are located near Monsanto grown crops whose seed came onto their land – either by way of wind, cross pollinators or trucks transporting seed. And Monsanto has the Genetically Modified Cojones to sue these small farmers for growing their product.
This happened to Percy Shmeiser, a farmer in Canada, who was sued by Monsanto for having had his canola field contaminated by Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready Canola. Monsanto alleges that it is immaterial whether or not Shmeiser purposefully seeded, or even wanted to seed, their product, but only that his crop is now laced with their proprietary goods and Percy was to pay up. Fortunately, while Percy didn’t necessarily win the case, he did not have to pay Monsanto. He did, however, lose his retirement in fighting the battle.
According to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, over a hundred other U.S. farmers have faced similar suits for alleged seed patent violations. The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s Science Policy analyst stated that many small farmers settle these cases out of court, despite their innocence, because they simply don’t have the resources to fight a corporate giant.
Organic consumers and Nelson Farm have sites highlighting stories of only a small portion of Monsanto’s Hall of Shame. One can also check Monsanto’s site to see their side in the matter. Monsanto claims as of July 2009 they have only filed suit against farmers for seed piracy 138 times. Otherwise they claim to reach a mutually agreeable settlement without filing suit.
Other sources state that Monsanto has filed up to 1500 suits. Mostly, however, they simply settle out of court. It’s much easier to bully a farmer with the notion of a suit and win the battle. To me, there is an inherent problem with a seed company that battles farmers and that is being sued by governments, individuals and organizations throughout the world. There is something fundamentally wrong with a corporation that needs to hire several dozen bouncers disguised as investigators to tour the U.S., trespass on farmer’s property, test their seeds and file suit against those farmers for having genetically modified seeds – especially if those farmers grow organic or non-GM crops and their unwanted output is the tainted result of an invasion of seeds from a neighboring farm.
Who is the victim here?
The farmers are twice victimized. Their crops are contaminated and they get sued. If a company truly believed in the efficacy of its product, would it not spend more time doing positive outreach instead of bullying? Would it not spend energy touting its fine product instead of defending itself? Is there not a problem with the fact that millions are against Monsanto? That there is outrage with Monsanto’s unethical and immoral practices? There is. And when the masses rise up to object, the objections will rise to the cause.
The top seed companies control 50% of all commercial seed markets and they are consolidating and gaining more power.
Saved seed is a vital resource that helps farmers thrive and in some cases simply survive. Farmers, while under the rule of Monsanto and other seedy corporations, have to sign an agreement that removes their rights for saving seeds. In many cases, especially in developing countries, the farmers have little understanding about the constraints of the ‘Technology Agreement’. Some of these farmers are illiterate and likely have no understanding about this contract’s constraints and the rights they are signing away.
And along comes Terminator Technology to save the day. As early as 1983 the government was quietly financing one of the earliest GE experiments – terminator technology – with a corporation, Delta & Pine Land (D&PL). In March 1998 a joint patent was granted to D&PL and the United States of America, as represented by the Secretary of Agriculture. This means that the US government was partial owner of the terminator technology. In 2006 (finalized in 2007) Monsanto bought D&PL along with their patents.
In an article titled Monsanto Announces Takeover of Delta & Pine Land and Terminator Seed Technology (again) Ban Terminator writes:
Over 500 organizations worldwide have called for a global ban on Terminator Technology, asserting that sterile seeds will destroy the livelihoods and cultures of the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm-saved seed.
Once again, an organization whose falsely altruistic claims include Feeding the World’s Hungry, is attempting to commercialize a seed that is designed as a one-time use only. This is what we call in the business a contradiction. Terminator seeds would render farmers powerless to the seed companies. And cross-pollination? Those farmers who are not using the terminator seed but who get their crops contamination by it will then have to buy seed instead of using their own. The outcome? Keeping poor farmers poor, a food system of complete dependency on multinational corporations for a worldwide food supply, and hunger.
Governments at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in March 2006 unanimously re-affirmed and strengthened the international de facto moratorium on field testing and commercialization of Terminator seeds. No research has yet shown that ban to be lifted, yet there are countries who are attempting to lift it independently – Canada and New Zealand to name two.
A Glass of Breast Cancer?
The unfair treatment of farmers and the fight to label non-rBGH treated milk.
On November 5, 1993, the FDA made a clear statement about where they stand with Bovine Growth Hormone.
following extensive review of the data to support the safety and effectiveness of the product, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA or Agency) approved the Monsanto’s application for Posilac containing a recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) (also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin, rbST, or Sometribove). In order for the FDA to grant this approval, they first had to confirm it was safe for human consumption.
Against the wishes of many opposing groups, the FDA determined it is not necessary to label dairy products containing bovine growth hormone. You can review an FDA statement dated February 17, 1994 (but referencing November 1993) claiming there is nothing wrong with BGH-treated cows thus no need to label it. This statement was written by none other than Michael Taylor. More on him coming up soon…
Now here’s a real knee slapper: A small dairy farm in Maine that’s been around since 1921 and is well-established in its community was sued by Monsanto in 2003 for advertising their cow’s milk does not contain Monsanto’s Artificial Growth Hormone (rBGH). Monsanto sued Oakhurst, charging that this label misled consumers into thinking there was something wrong with milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone. While the Oakhurst farm maintained the right to claim no Growth Hormone, they had to add, FDA states: No significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone.
Interestingly enough, on Monsanto’s blog, there is a post entitled Milk Labeling – Is Monsanto Opposed to Truth in Labeling? Given how Monsanto fought to prevent labeling in the first place, my short answer to their question is yes. In the post, Monsanto continues their weedy attempts to make the reader believe that the company is the master of transparency by touting their support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to include the
No significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone line.
Considering the FDA’s statement is a mistruth, my long answer to Monsanto’s blog post Milk Labeling – Is Monsanto Opposed to Truth in Labeling is yeeeeeeeeees.
It’s AFACT that non-BGH milk labels can harm some farmers
According to the Organic and nonGMO Report, a public relations firm that has been hired by Monsanto is directly related to an organization called AFACT (American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology) created late 2007.
AFACT seeks to educate, equip and empower all participants in the food chain to understand the benefits of technology and encourage consumers to demand access to high-quality, affordable food with a minimal impact on the environment.
I wonder how long it took the public relations folks at St. Louis’ Osborn & Barr Communications to wordsmith that statement. AFACT advocates the passage of laws banning or restricting labels that indicate milk comes from untreated cows. Some dairy farming cooperatives and consumers have requested other dairy farmers who use Bovine Growth Hormone to discontinue their use of this chemical. Instead, some of these farmers joined AFACT.
Back to Osborn & Barr Communication. For a company whose website claims,
We do more than create communications for our clients.
We Create Belief.
One doesn’t have to be the sharpest tool in the shed to know they are masters of deception. In my opinion, it’s a fine line between creating belief and brainwashing. Osborn & Barr also have the National Pork Board and the USDA Rural Development as their clients. It is AFACT that these organizations need expert public relations to push their product. To me, it is AFACT that a company who boasts ‘We create BELIEF’ undermines the intelligence of the American consumer.
Oh, and Monsanto has claims there is no difference between non-rBGH and BGH-treated cows? Substantial evidence indicates that milk from rBGH-treated cows is very likely to feature:
birth defects, pus in milk, increased antibiotics as a result of the increased pus, and lameness in cows.
More antibiotics in dairy cows means more antibiotics ingested by humans. More antibiotics in humans means increased resistance to antibiotics when the humans most need it. Of course, having the antibiotics in my milk is much more appealing than the pus. But then, I no longer drink cow’s milk, so that’s of no concern to me personally. I just worry about the rest of you. Also a tumor-promoting chemical called IGF-I, which has been implicated in cancers of the colon, smooth muscle, prostate and breast is linked to rBGH.
Several countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and the European Union have banned rbGH because of its impacts on human and animal health.
Monsanto removed themselves from this messy dairy business and sold their product, Posilac, to Eli Lilly in 2008. Now Eli Lilly has jumped on the legislative campaign bandwagon to remove ‘rBGH-free’ labels from dairy products.
Something to keep in mind: Economically, it is more efficient for dairy farmers to juice up their cows with bovine growth hormone. Factory farming depends on this chemical in order to maintain a large and steady output. Small farms struggle to compete. By supporting local farms who maintain the value of keeping their product free from chemicals, the consumer is taking a stand for the economy of his or her community. Since rBGH was approved, approximately 40,000 US (about 1/3 of the US total) dairy farmers had to close their barn doors due to an inability to compete with the big business of injecting cows with the bovine drug. It is speculated that upwards of 90% of the US’s milk and dairy supply (including infant formula) is tainted by the nearly 1500 dairy companies’ allowing the commingling of GMO and nonGMO milk supply. Checkout Shirley’s Wellness Café for some more comprehensive information on the matter.