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Amster writes: "Monsanto is patenting death, perhaps even more so than life. Their patent rights should not trump the rights of people to procure safe, healthy, living foods."

GMO noose. (photo: Natural Society)
GMO noose. (photo: Natural Society)



Monsanto’s Death Grip on Your Food

By Randall Amster, Occupy Monsanto

20 March 13

 

onsanto's near-monopoly gives the company the right to control access to a staple food item that is found in a wide range of consumer products.

Monsanto has yet another case pending in the court system, this time before the U.S. Supreme Court on the exclusivity of its genetically modified seed patents. Narrowly at issue is whether Monsanto retains patent rights on soybeans that have been replanted after showing up in generic stocks rather than being sold specifically as seeds, or whether those patent rights are "exhausted" after the initial planting. But more broadly the case also raises implications regarding control of the food supply and the patenting of life - questions that current patent laws are ill-equipped to meaningfully address.

On the specific legal issues, Monsanto is likely to win the case (they almost always do). The extant facts make this a relatively poor platform to serve as a test case of Monsanto's right to exert such expansive powers. The farmer in this situation had previously purchased Monsanto soybeans for planting (back in 1999), and in this instance bought previously harvested soybeans with the intention of planting them - even spraying Monsanto's Roundup herbicide on them in the hopes that at least some of the generic stock would be of the so-called "Roundup Ready" variety.

Despite this unfortunate posture, the case does provide another opportunity for critical inquiry regarding the unprecedented and perverse level of control Monsanto is asserting over the food supply. It is estimated that 90 percent of the soybeans in the U.S. are genetically modified and thus subject to potential patents. A random handful of soybeans procured anywhere is likely to contain at least some Monsanto-altered beans. Such a near-monopoly effectively gives Monsanto the right to control access to a staple food item that is found in a wide range of consumer products.

Other variations on this theme include pollen from Monsanto corn (similarly dominant in the U.S. market) pollinating a farmer's crop, or seeds from Monsanto-engineered grains being distributed by animals, winds, or waterways and commingling with non-GMO plantings. In each case, Monsanto could have a cause of action against an unwitting farmer by claiming patent infringement.

More broadly, and unlikely to be addressed in the instant case, is whether Monsanto (or any other company) should be able to patent seeds - the core of global food supplies, and thus of sustenance for billions of people - in the first place. Activists will decry the fact that Monsanto is patenting life, and this is indeed an Orwellian (or perhaps a Huxleyan) prospect, to be sure. Yet I would submit that Monsanto is actually patenting death, which is potentially even more disconcerting.

Consider that by exerting this level of control over the food supply, Monsanto is rapidly creating a world in which people have to pay fealty to the corporation in order to grow food and/or consume it. In this sense, Monsanto gains enormous power to determine who is allowed to eat - and thus who lives or dies. Consider further that Monsanto's patents also include technologies in which seeds are sold that cannot propagate themselves, resulting in plants terminating rather than perpetuating, requiring farmers to have to go back to the "company store" in order to replant their fields.

In the case currently before the Court, shades of the latter issue are present, with the question being whether the seeds of the seeds of Monsanto creations retain their exclusive patent rights - possibly in perpetuity. This sort of argument might give us cause to wonder whether an animal (or even a human being, someday?) who consumes these proprietary foods could be implicated in such assertions if they are somehow genetically altered in the process. Perverse slippery slopes aside, the permeation of patentable materials throughout the food chain is by now a clear and present danger.

These are troubling trends indeed. Monsanto wants the right to exert perpetual control, and with it the power to make decisions about who/what lives or dies. In addition to seed patents, their corporate creations include herbicides, pesticides, and biocides that toxify soils and poison waters. Genetically modified foods increasingly dominate the U.S. food supply (and supplies elsewhere, at least where they haven't been explicitly banned) despite insufficient testing and concerns about their health impacts. The ability of corporations like Monsanto to continue plying such products with little oversight constitutes a de facto consumer beta test on a mass level, the full effects of which may not be known for decades, if ever.

Taking all of this together, it increasingly appears that Monsanto is patenting death, perhaps even more so than life. Their patent rights should not trump the rights of people to procure safe, healthy, living foods. Whatever the result in the Supreme Court case, we should roundly deem Monsanto a loser in the court of public opinion, and strive to loosen their death grip on our food supply.

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+65 # Richard Raznikov 2013-03-20 16:26
Thanks for this article. Monsanto is indeed a very dangerous corporation, and its influence at the highest levels of government contributes to its power and wealth. For additional background information on Monsanto, try this: http://lookingglass.blog.co.uk/2012/02/17/the-face-of-evil-12807395/
 
 
+49 # Walter J Smith 2013-03-20 19:10
Two things.

This court don't do nuance. Or subtlty.

And, this court never misses an opportunity to promote ungoverned corporatism.

Monsanto, 5-4, if not 7-2.
 
 
-66 # MidwestTom 2013-03-20 21:56
Considering the fact that world grain supplies are at a 20 year low, we should be thankful that crop research has increased the average yield by more than 80% per acre over the past 20 years. Without the increased production the GMO's have produced starvation would be a very serious problem today. Agricultural biotech companies spend billions on research to increase production. If they cannot control the results of their research, we stop the improvements in crop yields. The problem is that the world's population has not stopped growing, and everybody wants to eat.
 
 
+18 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-03-21 08:41
(1)
5. R.W. Elmore et al., 2001.  Glyphosate-resi stant soyabean cultivar yields compared with sister lines. Agronomy Journal 93, 2001: 408–412.
6. Doug Gurian-Sherman, 2009. Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops. Union of Concerned Scientists. http://tiny.cc/eqZST
7. Doug Gurian-Sherman, 2008. Genetic engineering — A crop of hyperbole. The San Diego Union Tribune, 18 June. http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080618/news_lz1e18gurian.html
 
 
+13 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-03-21 08:54
(2)
5. R.W. Elmore et al., 2001.  Glyphosate-resi stant soyabean cultivar yields compared with sister lines. Agronomy Journal 93, 2001: 408–412.
6. Doug Gurian-Sherman, 2009. Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops. Union of Concerned Scientists. http://tiny.cc/eqZST
7. Doug Gurian-Sherman, 2008. Genetic engineering — A crop of hyperbole. The San Diego Union Tribune, 18 June. http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20080618/news_lz1e18gurian.html

Your reply?
 
 
+33 # Billsy 2013-03-21 10:57
That is exactly what Monsanto wants you to believe, and to control the world food supply on the coattails of that belief. Now listen to agriculturists who consistently warn of the vulnerability of mono-culture crops. And why should Monsanto and other GMO developers not be liable when their genetic alterations contaminate heirloom crops, as their corn is already doing in Mexico? The collusion between our govt. and Monsanto is corrupt and corrosive and needs to stop. It's not just about GMO technology which is a problem in itself, it's about the coddling and protection of an abusive aggressive corporate power by our own govt. which exists purportedly for the benefit of its electorate, not the board of Monsanto.
 
 
+14 # Depressionborn 2013-03-21 13:15
what about the farmer who rotates his crops and gets by without herbicides when the wild blows the hybrid seed over his farm and he loses it to big ag? Then what happens next when the chems lose potency? Sounds like famine to me.
 
 
+7 # Firefox11 2013-03-21 19:10
The increased production that you say GMOs have produced is at too high a price. GMOs are not healthy which is why they are required to be labeled in practically every country in the world outside the U.S. Starvation is a problem that has many causes: soil degradation, desertification , deforestation, meat production, farm subsidization, war, water pollution to name a few. Agricultural biotech companies are not smarter than farmers and they should not be given special treatment by courts, esp the Supreme Court. They are interested in profit above all and like many corporations will skew the facts to get there.
 
 
+7 # Sweet Pea 2013-03-21 20:05
I want to eat, but I hope I have the opportunity to eat safe foods - - not foods that contain carcinogens and other ingredients that are bad for us.
I recently read that soy (which so many people claimed was very good for us), is now proving to be not so good for us. It's starting to get scary.
 
 
+4 # Mrcead 2013-03-23 04:52
Surprisingly, man has survived for thousands of years without Monsanto's GMO's, but don't quote me on that.

Besides, a bulk of the food that should go to the 1 billion starving actually goes to feed other food - livestock. Don't get me started on where the clean drinking water goes. Scotts, Truegreen and other lawncare professionals would be upset at me for speaking the truth.
 
 
0 # noitall 2013-03-23 17:29
[quote name="MidwestTo m"]Considering the fact that world grain supplies are at a 20 year low, we should be thankful that crop research has increased the average yield by more than 80% per acre over the past 20 years. Without the increased production the GMO's have produced starvation would be a very serious problem today. Agricultural biotech companies spend billions on research to increase production. If they cannot control the results of their research, we stop the improvements in crop yields. The problem is that the world's population has not stopped growing, and everybody wants to eat.[

As usual, MidwestTom has drank the Republican talking point kool Aid. Ask farmers how the lies that got them into it are working for them now. More pesticides needed now, super bugs (what they got to say about evolution now?). How does Bill Gates and his interest in population control move him to buy ashitloadof Monsanto? These assholes are evil.
 
 
+16 # theshift33 2013-03-20 22:14
Global Population in 1800 - 980 million.

1950 - 2.5 billion

Projected population in 2030 - 7.9 billion. Source: UN & World Bank

Well the powers that be will have to cull the masses if they want to meet their 1st goal on the Georgia Stones of
maintaining humanity under 500 million.

Is this the start? Just saying.
 
 
+1 # noitall 2013-03-23 17:32
Don't forget "endless war" for oil...I mean against terror...or is it against drugs. Regardless, they be killing lots of undesirable brown people.
 
 
+43 # patriot9878 2013-03-20 23:07
I have heard many people say it might be time to burn down Monsanto warehouses. I don't know, but it makes you wonder why men would have done 100 years ago. Some say it might be time to burn down Monsanto fields. I don't know what we should do, but the question is what do you do to someone who is tryin to kill you?
 
 
+2 # noitall 2013-03-23 17:35
It seems that historically, it is their side that does all the burning and killing. Greed is a big motivator. Progressives tend to trust in the swinging pendulum to get to more sane times. Besides, the military belongs to Monsanto, et.al. Problem is, the pendulum swings mighty slow and the greedy have gotten pretty efficient at fucking things up!
 
 
+33 # tm7devils 2013-03-21 00:57
Which just goes to show...SCOTUS, in its present state(5/4) is more dangerous than Monsanto.
 
 
+17 # Depressionborn 2013-03-21 01:04
We do seem intent on destroying ourselves. Whatever has gone wrong it is not the fault of corporations, courts or government regulators. It is ours, the people. We are allowing it. Hitler was elected by a large margin. About half of us appear to want the same here.
 
 
+6 # tbcrawford 2013-03-21 17:20
Problem is we just aren't allowed to know if corporations have any say. I worked hard on Prop 37, Label GMOs in CA and believe me, corporations had the money to silence this simple request: $42+ million vs I think we got up to $6-7 million.
 
 
+2 # Depressionborn 2013-03-21 18:49
Yes, exactly.
So why have we voted for more of it is my point. There will always be corruption. It must not be allowed to gain power, especially the power of government. It is up to us to stop. You cannot do it alone.

Poor Hannibal, like many, he thinks he is a victim and wants more government when government is the problem. Our education system has failed.

Seventy years ago we might have put a stop to it. Now it appears too late. Now it will be root hog or die. It is up to you young guys now, I am too old. Good luck.
 
 
+3 # Firefox11 2013-03-21 19:13
When corporations are granted personhood by the Supreme Court, plus they have vast resources it is nigh impossible for individuals to have the influence that they can buy. Thank you for making the effort to do the right thing. Wholefoods needed to get in the game sooner in CA; perhaps their influence could have turned the tide there.
 
 
+22 # hannibal 2013-03-21 03:25
This activist Supreme Court is deliberately pushing the conservative agenda and unfortunately should they continue, Monsanto will be the big winner and new , although perverse, precedents will be set.
 
 
+47 # maverita 2013-03-21 04:43
Monsanto needs to be brought down. Stop eating GMO's. raise heck at the grocery store. Write everyone. Educate the people. And simply refuse to eat their foods. I am healthier for it. But I am a canary in a coal mine, with multiple food allergies. GMO corn causes deep subcutaneous pimples i call puss pockets on my face and gives me diahrrea. Can no longer eat soy, not even organic. Seems the GMO's soy sensitized me. Live in fear of rice contamination next. My problems will be the problems your children or grandchildren develop as food allergies are increasing in direct relationship to these engineered seeds.
 
 
+30 # Barbara K 2013-03-21 07:53
maverita: I am with you. I have been ill going on 4 years now. For the first 3 years, it was like having a stomach flu that never ends. Looked like a skeleton as I couldn't retain any of the few things I could almost tolerate. It took that long to realize it was what I was eating. Discovered it was wheat products. I am not allergic to wheat, they tested, and what they found was making me ill was what they were putting on the wheat and the wheat seed itself. The doctors said to try to avoid all grains. I am on the road to recovery now. The stuff they are putting on our food is killing us. It even kills cows who are fed the corn. Corn is an absolute no-no, I don't eat any corn. We should all stop eating the crap they are selling us as food. If the stores want my business, they will have to label the food and sell only safe food. I agree with you and will follow your advice if not already following it. Thanks, it's good to meet a fellow sufferer or Monsanto types. We should start lawsuits. Monsanto thinks it is protected from lawsuits, but there are ways around them. We need to rid ourselves of these poisons any way we can.

..
 
 
+8 # cordleycoit 2013-03-21 05:33
Who owns Monsanto?
 
 
+8 # madams12 2013-03-21 09:04
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,760723,00.html This is a TIME mag archive article on Monsanto's history.
Here's some financial info on "who invests in Monsanto" stock: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/mh?s=MON along with some key articles about who/what Monsanto does to our food supply. CONSUMERS SHOULD BOYCOTT & DIVEST!!
 
 
+31 # tedrey 2013-03-21 05:51
If Monsanto invented it, patented it, and has a monopoly on it, how can they avoid legal and financial accountability for all negative effects resulting from its use . . . of which there are obviously an abundance. The answer, of course, is that they have bought immunity, which is itself criminal.
 
 
+6 # Trueblue Democrat 2013-03-21 12:37
How can Monsanto avoid legal and financial accountability?

Like all the other mega-buck scuzbag corporations in America -- they bride the regulating authorities, the legislatures and the courts at all levels.
 
 
+7 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2013-03-21 15:08
Excellent point. I think the answer is that they have enormous legal funds — teams of lawyers that will bankrupt any plaintiffs in the legal system and make them think twice about suing. Perhaps a giant class-action lawsuit by those with standing who can show economic harm via crop contamination, food source contamination, etc., paid for by private funding of ecologically minded organizations and their members — but even that might have to wait until a rightwing Supreme dies.
 
 
+3 # tbcrawford 2013-03-21 17:27
Testing for human safety is almost impossible because Monsanto folks in FDA and even supreme court makes this a travesty of democracy. They write and defend the rules!
 
 
+1 # karenvista 2013-03-21 22:39
Quoting tedrey:
If Monsanto invented it, patented it, and has a monopoly on it, how can they avoid legal and financial accountability for all negative effects resulting from its use . . . of which there are obviously an abundance. The answer, of course, is that they have bought immunity, which is itself criminal.


That's why the big "Tort Reform" rush happened. Now in many states it is impossible to be able, financially, to bring such suits to court and the limits are so low that the legal fees won't even be recovered.
 
 
+11 # Gnome de Pluehm 2013-03-21 06:01
Who knows? This might set off a new round of Darwin's survival of the fittest. Genetic changes in food could set off changes in the human genome and those who can adapt to the new food chemistry will become the new population, known as Homo Monsanto. "We" might begin to look like the imaginations of Hollywood films or comic book denizens. Monsanto, at least, can hardly wait!
 
 
+7 # BobbyLip 2013-03-21 06:44
If Monsanto has a patent on death, and I am in the process of dying, will the company's lawyers send me a cease and desist letter? Sounds like a good deal to me!
 
 
+2 # Walter J Smith 2013-03-21 09:10
They wouldn't waste the printing, stuffing, & postage.
 
 
+1 # BobbyLip 2013-03-21 13:19
Ooh, stuffing!
 
 
+6 # RnR 2013-03-21 09:00
I think Monsanto is black ops. How else do they act with impunity world-wide? No matter what deviant activity they want to engage in (generic manipulation of animals) they are skipping blithly down the yellow brick road un-regulated by the shills pretending to be elected officials in the federal government.

What entity has world control of some resourse or other as its goal...the federal government, the see eye aye, the freemasons...
 
 
+2 # tbcrawford 2013-03-21 17:30
just simple unregulated "Capitalism"
 
 
+1 # karenvista 2013-03-21 22:52
Quoting RnR:
I think Monsanto is black ops. How else do they act with impunity world-wide?..the federal government, the see eye aye, the freemasons...


The State Department actually promotes Monsanto GMO crops, seeds and livestock abroad and tries to get them approved for sale.

That's the reason for the "Suicide Belt" of farmers in India. The government let Monsanto sell poor farmers their seeds and Roundup based on the lies that they would have greatly increased harvests. They didn't. Not only that, they couldn't keep seed from their crops for the next planting, they had to spend a lot of money on Roundup, their soil degraded. They ended up losing their homes and farms and many thousands committed suicide.
 
 
+8 # reiverpacific 2013-03-21 09:54
Operating from it's base in a Death Culture (The US), Monsanto is spreading death with it's huge staff of lawyers and scientific meddlers in crops which have been sustaining farmers (who are now committing suicided in record numbers in many countries, especially India) and communities around the world's more tropical and temperate zones -yet prices just keep rising for basic staples, which is one of their faux-rationales for producing and spreading GMOS in the first place.
Their own alleged "raisons d'etré" are being falsified by their ongoing "modes du vie".
 
 
+7 # da gaf 2013-03-21 10:02
unconscious idiotic people are in control of this world and every day move closer and closer to destroying this planet..the only solution that i know of is to do away with all the superstitious 300 religions so that mankind can wake-up and be alert,aware and totally sensitive to this precious life and green planet that we live on ..all religions keep mankind in a stupor in a robotic state as if this mythical GOD that no one has ever known or seen will take care of mankind..throwi ng the responsibility on someone else- we have to wake up and not elect leaders- but be responsible ourselves..get rid of these politicians (poly-many) (tic-blood-suck ing)they are the real cancer of this world!
 
 
+2 # Jaysson Brae 2013-03-21 12:40
No one really knows, yet, if GMO foods are safe or unsafe for humans and the biosphere.
But there's already enough independent lab evidence (showing dangerously negative effects in various lab animals) to warrant extreme caution with this technology.

By touting its own, blatantly rigged lab tests as 'proof of safety', Monsanto shows that it isn't interested in safety above profits -- but instead profits above safety.

And beyond the unresolved safety questions, there's the parallel question of whether we humans should allow a single private corporation to eventually "own" the world's seed stocks and, ultimately, most or all of humanity's commercial food supplies.

It is nightmarish that this inherently dangerous experimental technology is already, now, probably too far along to even rein-in or effectively control anymore.

Monsanto, and its friends in corrupt governments around the world, have decided to let the human race be used as guinea pigs -- not in the name of averting some proven, future mass starvation scenario -- but simply in the name of letting a relative handful of corporate sociopaths become fabulously wealthy and powerful.

There is absolutely no objective need for rushing the use of such a potentially disastrous, safety un-proven, and socially-unfair technology, except for a few people's totally insane hubris and greed.
 
 
+3 # tswhiskers 2013-03-21 12:41
I have read that soybean yields are down and that GMO crops are not as nutritious as they used to be. I agree with tedrey that since the courts seems to always rule in favor of Monsanto, then Monsanto should be held responsible for lower crop yields and any soil damage done by these crops. I no longer eat soybean oil or products or corn products, except meat (can't afford grass fed). It will probably require many human deaths proven to be caused by GMO crops to convince anyone to make them illegal. It always does in this country. People have to die in numbers before govt. or industry agree to change their ways. Again, it always comes down to greed and laziness in business and govt.
 
 
+2 # onewatcher 2013-03-21 13:49
So Monsanto is , in large part, responsible for the huge increase in world population (phase 1). Now on towards phase 2, "starve em out" unless they pay-up.
 
 
+6 # cafetomo 2013-03-21 14:59
No other country spends less on food, or more on medicine.

Go figure.
 
 
+4 # Firefox11 2013-03-21 19:30
Food is medicine; however, the so called healthcare industry does not want people to know this. Exceptions are Dr. Oz and Weil.
 
 
+1 # Mrcead 2013-03-23 04:54
Food requires medicine. Our food anyway. It also requires exercise since our bodies cannot metabolize such hardcore compounds via its natural biomechanical processes.
 
 
0 # wwway 2013-03-22 08:27
Are members of the SCOUS knowledgable enough to make a decision on the issue?
We've been eating genetitically modified foods since man decided to live, farm and ranch communially.
In a capitalist system there will always be a contest for your ear and your wallet. Therefore Food is medicine, medicine is food.
The fight for survival is determined by resources. Resources determine mortality rates.
Can't help but be philosophical with reality. I'm concerned with Monsanto's monopoly.
 
 
0 # Depressionborn 2013-03-22 18:55
The Cyprus thing is big, A wake up call, it needs a special thread. Pay attention guys. This one counts.
 

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