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2013 articles

Brazilian judge rules in favour of farmers against Monsanto

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A judge in Brazil has blocked Monsanto's attempt to make farmers sign restrictive agreements before they can gain access to the company's new GM seed, RR2 Intacta soybeans.

The legal case was brought against Monsanto by the farmers’ union Sinop Rural Union and applies to all farmers in the state of Mato Grosso.

The background to this story is that last year the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that Monsanto had collected royalties from farmers illegally for its RR1 soybeans and that the company must refund the farmers.
http://www.nature.com/news/monsanto-may-lose-gm-soya-royalties-throughout-brazil-1.10837

Monsanto then reached a deal with Famato and other farmers’ unions. The deal was that farmers who wanted to plant RR2 Intacta soybeans would sign an agreement with Monsanto at point of purchase, waiving their rights to a refund of the illegally collected royalties.

Any farmer who signed the agreement would also be signing away other important rights. He would grant Monsanto the right to enter and inspect his property at any time. The farmer would be left completely vulnerable to ANY decisions the company might make, including royalty fee increases or having part of his harvest confiscated – and he would agree not to sue Monsanto at any time. At the same time, the company does not guarantee a yield increase from RR2 Intacta.

The farmer would also agree to "the declaration of principles that recognise the intellectual property rights on agricultural technologies". This contravenes Brazilian seed law, which protects farmers' rights to save seed and to use or sell the products of their own cultivation. In short, the agreement put Monsanto’s interests above Brazilian law and deprived farmers of their rights.

In the latest ruling on 11 October, the judge blocked Monsanto's demands that farmers sign the agreement as a condition to buy RR2. The judge said that Monsanto is unfairly taking advantage of its favorable position in the market as the only technology provider of Intacta RR2, in forcing farmers to "to comply with clauses that are burdensome, if not illegal" as a condition of purchasing the product. In addition, the judge said that Monsanto’s agreement may contravene Brazilian consumer law.

A Brazilian source told GMWatch that Monsanto is experiencing growing resistance to its methods in Brazil: “As in the USA, farmers who prefer to cultivate non-GM soybeans to avoid the complications are frequently accused of delivering GM-contaminated soybeans. A test is made by a Monsanto technician when the soybeans arrive at the silos. If the result is positive, the farmer can’t verify the accuracy of the test.”

If GM contamination is alleged, then not only does the farmer have to pay royalties to Monsanto, but he loses the premium for his non-GMO soy harvest.

The source added that despite the company’s struggles to consolidate its products and set aside the legal disputes, RR2 is still far from being the “product of choice” for farmers: “In recent TV interviews, farmers said they will go back to non-GM soy varieties with a higher yield than RR2. They also say this avoids a lot of trouble.

“Although many are still led to believe Monsanto is a partner, more and more are becoming aware of the abusive practices. As a result, not as many farmers will go for RR2 in 2014.”

For those who read Portuguese, latest court decision is reproduced here:
http://bit.ly/17lWaCD
The Google translation into English is here:
http://bit.ly/1gzbnqV

And here's a draft of the Monsanto agreement, again in Portuguese, with the interspersed remarks of an unimpressed Famato attorney in red, here:
http://www.sistemafamato.org.br/site/arquivos/05022013043646.pdf
The final agreement is here:
http://www.aprosoja.com.br/sistema/modules/servicos/uploads/files/Acordo_Licenciamento_PRODUTOR.pdf

As a postscript, the judge's summary of the legal complaint brought by Sinop Rural Union (item 2 below) gives an interesting account of the circumstances in which RR2 Intacta was introduced in Brazil. Monsanto's launch of RR2 Intacta followed close behind the arrival of a convenient plague of caterpillars, of a type that RR2 Intacta was specifically engineered to kill.

1. Intacta: Judge rules in favour of Sinop Rural Union of farmers, against Monsanto; ruling covers whole of Mato Grosso
2. Public Civil Action No. 42947-12.2013.811.0041 (id: 838240): Decision by judge Alex Nunes Figueiredo
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1. Intacta: Judge rules in favour of Sinop Rural Union of farmers, against Monsanto; ruling covers whole of Mato Grosso
Notícias Agrícolas, 11 Oct 2013
http://bit.ly/17lWaCD (Portuguese original)
Google translation into English: http://bit.ly/1gzbnqV
Rough translation below (shortened) by Google/GMWatch

The judge of the Specialized Court for Civil Actions of Mato Grosso/Cuiaba, Alex Nunes Figueiredo, on Friday 11 ruled in favour of the farmers of Sinop Rural Union and against Monsanto. The company was demanding, at point of sale of Intacta [RR2 soy], that the farmers waive their right to a refund of the royalties charged illegally for RR1 technology.

According to the lawyer for Sinop Rural Union, Orlando Caesar, this decision applies only to the state of Mato Grosso; however, it opens the door for other states to launch a similar action. "The first similar action happened in Bahia with the union of [the city of] Luís Eduardo Magalhães, and then with Sinop." Actions can be collective or individual, according to the lawyer.

Caesar also states that this decision is known as anticipation of the effects of an action. "The judge predicted illegal actions by Monsanto and in an attempt to prevent further injury [to famers], decided on these precautionary measures."

These actions [by Monsanto] have been going on in various parts of Brazil, such as Bahia, Luís Eduardo Magalhães, Rio Grande do Sul, and Mato Grosso, in an attempt to block court orders for the repayment of improper collection of royalties already defined [in a ruling] by the Court of the First Instance.

Along with the waiver of the refund of royalties, Monsanto also demanded the signing of an agreement for use of technology that would allow employees of the company to monitor cultivations and to enter farms to control planting on the grounds of preventing the spread of this new technology.

According to information from technicians[?], Monsanto aims to prevent farmers from saving seeds and reproducing them individually, according to the law of cultivars [which allows this practice]. [The company is] even pushing MPs to change the law to end the right of farmers to save seeds.

Below is the position of Monsanto on the issue:

"Monsanto has received no official notification from the Court of Mato Grosso. In case of such notification, Monsanto will take appropriate legal steps." …
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2. Public Civil Action No. 42947-12.2013.811.0041 (id: 838240): Decision by judge Alex Nunes Figueiredo
Plaintiff: Sinop Rural Union
Defendant: Monsanto Brazil Ltda
10 October 2013
Ruling in Portuguese:
http://bit.ly/17lWaCD
Google translation into English:
http://bit.ly/1gzbnqV

This is a public civil action for an injunction filed by Sinop Rural Union against Monsanto Brazil Ltda, alleging in essence that it began to market the required patented technology Intacta RR2 Pro using unfair practices, and by taking advantage of its absolute [monopoly] control over the technology.

The plaintiff states that in the 2012/2013 harvest the caterpillar of Helicoperva armigera drastically affected soybean crops in the country, proliferating at exponential rates.

Concurrent with the appearance of this pest, Intacta RR2 Pro technology, which has resistance to Helicoperva armigera, was launched, meaning that this technology was to become the object of desire of many farmers.

However, the plaintiff states that the defendant placed conditions on the purchase of this product--the signing of terms of agreement containing numerous clauses that are abusive and illegal.

In conclusion, arguing the presence of the authorised requirements for a preliminary injunction, [the plaintiff] pleaded for approval of the measure in the following terms:

"a) to cause the defendant to refrain from requiring the signature of documents called "Technology License Agreement" and "Agreement on Technology Licensing and General Discharge as a condition for improvement of contracts for the purchase and sale of Intacta RR2 Pro seeds for cultivation; b) suspend the effectiveness of the agreements already signed; and c) extend the decision to all producers of Mato Grosso."