Keep up with the latest news and comment on genetically modified foods          

Featured Articles on GMO issues

New report exposes devastating impact of Monsanto

1.Monsanto sued small famers to protect seed patents, report says
2.New Report Exposes Devastating Impact of Monsanto Practices on U.S. Farmers

NOTE: For the full report:  http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Seed-Giants_final.pdf
---
---
1.Monsanto sued small famers to protect seed patents, report says
Paul Harris in New York
The Guardian, 12 February 2013
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/feb/12/monsanto-sues-farmers-seed-patents

*Agricultural giant has won more than $23m from its targets, but one case is being heard at Supreme Court this month

The agricultural giant Monsanto has sued hundreds of small farmers in the United States in recent years in attempts to protect its patent rights on genetically engineered seeds that it produces and sells, a new report said on Tuesday.

The study, produced jointly by the Center for Food Safety and the Save Our Seeds campaigning groups, has outlined what it says is a concerted effort by the multinational to dominate the seeds industry in the US and prevent farmers from replanting crops they have produced from Monsanto seeds.

In its report, called Seed Giants vs US Farmers, the CFS said it had tracked numerous law suits that Monsanto had brought against farmers and found some 142 patent infringement suits against 410 farmers and 56 small businesses in more than 27 states. In total the firm has won more than $23m from its targets, the report said.

However, one of those suits, against Indiana soybean farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman, is a potentially landmark patent case that could have wide implications for genetic engineering and who controls patents on living organisms. The CFS and SOS are both supporting Bowman in the case, which will be heard in the Supreme Court later this month.

"Corporations did not create seeds and many are challenging the existing patent system that allows private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival and that historically has been in the public domain," said Debbie Barker, an expert with SOS and one of the report's co-authors. Another co-author, CFS legal expert George Kimbrell, said victory in the Bowman case could help shift that balance of power back to farmers. "The great weight of history and the law is on the side of Mr Bowman and farmers in general," he said.

The report also revealed the dominance that large firms and their genetically altered crops have in the US and global market. It found that 53% of the world's commercial seed market is controlled by just three firms – Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta.

Meanwhile genetically-altered commodity crops – and thus the influence of patent protection – have spread to become overwhelmingly dominant. In the US some 93% of soybeans and 86% of corn crops come from such seeds.

The Bowman case has come about after the 75-year-old farmer bought soybeans from a grain elevator near his farm in Indiana and used them to plant a late-season second crop. He then used some of the resulting seeds to replant such crops in subsequent years. Because he bought them from a third party which put no restrictions on their use, Bowman has argued he is legally able to plant and replant them and that Monsanto's patent on the seeds' genes does not apply.

Monsanto, which has won its case against Bowman in lower courts, vociferously disagrees. It argues that it needs its patents in order to protect its business interests and provide a motivation for spending millions of dollars on research and development of hardier, disease-resistant seeds that can boost food yields.

On a website set up to put forward its point of view on the Bowman case, the company argues that if the supreme court rules against it, vast swathes of research and patent-reliant industries will be under threat. Strong patent protection that covers genetic innovations, and is passed on in subsequent generations of crops, is vital to preserving the motivation for developing new agricultural products, the firm insists.

"If Bowman prevails, however, this field of research could be altered severely, as would many others in medicine, biofuels, and environmental science, as easily replicable technologies would no longer enjoy any meaningful protection under the patent laws," the firm said in a statement.
---
---
2.As Challenge over Seed Rights Approaches Supreme Court, New Report Exposes Devastating Impact of Monsanto Practices on U.S. Farmers
Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds, February 12 2013
 http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/2013/02/12/cfs-save-our-seeds-release-new-report-seed-giants-vs-u-s-farmers/

*Press Releases: CFS and SOS Investigate Role of Seed Patents in Consolidating Corporate Control of Global Food Supply

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, one week before the Supreme Court hears arguments in Bowman v. Monsanto Co., the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Save our Seeds (SOS) – two legal and policy organizations dedicated to promoting safe, sustainable food and farming systems – will launch their new report, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.

The new report investigates how the current seed patent regime has led to a radical shift to consolidation and control of global seed supply and how these patents have abetted corporations, such as Monsanto, to sue U.S. farmers for alleged seed patent infringement.

Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers also examines broader socio-economic consequences of the present patent system including links to loss of seed innovation, rising seed prices, reduction of independent scientific inquiry, and environmental issues.

Debbie Barker, Program Director for Save Our Seeds and Senior Writer for the Report, said today:  “Corporations did not create seeds and many are challenging the existing patent system that allows private companies to assert ownership over a resource that is vital to survival, and that, historically, has been in the public domain.”

Among the report’s discoveries are several alarming statistics:

As of January 2013, Monsanto, alleging seed patent infringement, had filed 144 lawsuits involving 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses in at least 27 different states.
Today, three corporations control 53 percent of the global commercial seed market.
Seed consolidation has led to market control resulting in dramatic increases in the price of seeds. From 1995-2011, the average cost to plant one acre of soybeans has risen 325 percent; for cotton prices spiked 516 percent and corn seed prices are up by 259 percent.
The report also disputes seed industry claims that present seed patent rules are necessary for seed innovation.  As Bill Freese, senior scientist at Center for Food Safety and one of the report’s contributors notes:  “Most major new crop varieties developed throughout the 20th century owe their origin to publicly funded agricultural research and breeding.”

Additionally, Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers reports a precipitous drop in seed diversity that has been cultivated for millennia. As the report notes:  86% of corn, 88% of cotton, and 93% of soybeans farmed in the U.S. are now genetically-engineered (GE) varieties, making the option of farming non-GE crops increasingly difficult.

While agrichemical corporations also claim that their patented seeds are leading to environmental improvements, the report notes that upward of 26 percent more chemicals per acre were used on GE crops than on non-GE crops, according to USDA data.

Further, in response to an epidemic of weed resistance to glyphosate, the primary herbicide used on GE crops, Dow AgroSciences is seeking USDA approval of “next generation” corn and soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, an active ingredient in Agent Orange.  Monsanto is seeking approval for GE dicamba-resistant soybeans, corn, and cotton.

At the launch of the report via teleconference today, experts from the Center for Food Safety and Save our Seeds were joined by Mr. Vernon Hugh Bowman, the 75-year-old Indiana soybean farmer who, next week, will come up against Monsanto in the Supreme Court Case.  When asked about the numerous comparisons being drawn between his case and the story of David and Goliath, Mr. Bowman responded, “I really don’t consider it as David and Goliath. I don’t think of it in those terms. I think of it in terms of right and wrong.”

In December of 2012, the Center for Food Safety, and Save Our Seeds submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of Mr. Bowman, which supports the right of farmers to re-plant saved seed. Arguments in the case are scheduled for February 19th.

For the full report:  http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Seed-Giants_final.pdf

More information on the CFS and SOS can be found at:   http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org