A portrait of Monsanto is a portrait of all that seems worst in the cabal.
As accountability gains momentum, companies like it will find themselves increasingly under fire. Opposition will be legally-conducted; companies will be brought before the court. In Monsanto’s case, it’ll be ironic since they’re known for using the court to bankrupt small farmers and other victims.
Monsanto has brought a major case before the Supreme Court recently – Monsanto vs. Geertson. (1) Daily Kos calls it “the scariest case in Supreme Court history.” (2)
Here’s the Ron Paul Daily‘s writeup of the factual basis:
“A group of alfalfa seed producers, organic farming organizations and nonprofit environmental groups had brought the suit, alleging that Roundup Ready alfalfa threatened their crop’s genetic integrity. A California district court issued an injunction and ordered APHIS to prohibit sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa until an environmental impact statement could be prepared while APHIS revisited its original deregulation order. Monsanto appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court, which twice refused to overrule the district court. The company then brought its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.” (3)
As background to this action, you should know that Monsanto regularly sues farmers whose fields have been contaminated by wind-blown Roundup Ready seeds, alleging that they are infringing Monsanto’s patents. In this suit, they turn their attention to seed companies.
Another frightening side to the case is that Justice Clarence Thomas sits on it though Thomas was formerly a lawyer for Monsanto. (4) This is such an obvious conflict of interest that it puts the Court to shame, as if throwing the 2004 election (in my opinion) was not shame enough.
As part of accountability, the Supreme Court also needs a stiff broom. I never thought I’d say that about an institution I used to stand in awe of.
A film was made a few years back discussing Monsanto’s tie-ins with government and regulatory agencies.
To win a case, Monsanto has been known to falsify signatures on documents farmers have never seen. (5) Some small farming families are fighting back against their tactics by creating Internet websites to detail Monsanto’s crimes. (6)
Marginal Indian farmers bankrupted by having to buy non-fertile Roundup Ready seeds annually have committed suicide. My teacher, Ammachi, offers scholarships to their sons and daughters and pensions to their widows. (7)
My understanding is that farmers in other Third World countries have also been affected; Chile is an example. Recently, thousands of farmers in Haiti rejected Monsanto’s offer to supply them with non-fertile seeds. (8)
On other fronts, Monsanto also stands accused of releasing deadly prions into the food chain. (9) Readers of my generation may recall the notoriety Monsanto, Dow and other companies gained for manufacturing Agent Orange, which killed large numbers of American troops and Vietnamese. (10)
Readers with less time available may wish to stop here. But if you want more information on Monsanto’s practices, by all means, read on. Accountability is something we’ll be reading about regularly for perhaps a year or two.
Vanity Fair recently described Monsanto’s attack on a small country-store owner:
“Gary Rinehart clearly remembers the summer day in 2002 when the stranger walked in and issued his threat. Rinehart was behind the counter of the Square Deal, his ‘old-time country store,’ as he calls it, on the fading town square of Eagleville, Missouri, a tiny farm community 100 miles north of Kansas City.
“The Square Deal is a fixture in Eagleville, a place where farmers and townspeople can go for lightbulbs, greeting cards, hunting gear, ice cream, aspirin, and dozens of other small items without having to drive to a big-box store in Bethany, the county seat, 15 miles down Interstate 35.
“Everyone knows Rinehart, who was born and raised in the area and runs one of Eagleville’s few surviving businesses. The stranger came up to the counter and asked for him by name.
“”Well, that’s me,’ said Rinehart.
“As Rinehart would recall, the man began verbally attacking him, saying he had proof that Rinehart had planted Monsanto’s genetically modified (G.M.) soybeans in violation of the company’s patent. Better come clean and settle with Monsanto, Rinehart says the man told him—or face the consequences.
“Rinehart was incredulous, listening to the words as puzzled customers and employees looked on. Like many others in rural America, Rinehart knew of Monsanto’s fierce reputation for enforcing its patents and suing anyone who allegedly violated them. But Rinehart wasn’t a farmer. He wasn’t a seed dealer. He hadn’t planted any seeds or sold any seeds. He owned a small—a really small—country store in a town of 350 people. He was angry that somebody could just barge into the store and embarrass him in front of everyone. “It made me and my business look bad,” he says. Rinehart says he told the intruder, “You got the wrong guy.”
“When the stranger persisted, Rinehart showed him the door. On the way out the man kept making threats. Rinehart says he can’t remember the exact words, but they were to the effect of: ‘Monsanto is big. You can’t win. We will get you. You will pay.’
“Scenes like this are playing out in many parts of rural America these days as Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers’ co-ops, seed dealers—anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds. As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the ‘seed police’ and use words such as ‘Gestapo’ and ‘Mafia’ to describe their tactics.
“When asked about these practices, Monsanto declined to comment specifically, other than to say that the company is simply protecting its patents.” (11)
Ethical Investing recently advised its readers to stop investing in Monsanto:
Monsanto is in the process of acquiring and patenting their newest technology, known as “Terminator Technology.” This technology is currently the greatest threat to humanity. If it is used by Monsanto on a large-scale basis, it will inevitably lead to famine and starvation on a worldwide basis.
Billions of people on the planet are supported by farmers who save seeds from the crops and replant these seeds the following year. Seeds are planted. The crop is harvested. And the seeds from the harvest are replanted the following year. Most farmers cannot afford to buy new seeds every year, so collecting and replanting seeds is a crucial part of the agricultural cycle. This is the way food has been grown successfully for thousands of years.
With Monsanto’s terminator technology, they will sell seeds to farmers to plant crops. But these seeds have been genetically-engineered so that when the crops are harvested, all new seeds from these crops are sterile (e.g., dead, unusable). This forces farmers to pay Monsanto every year for new seeds if they want to grow their crops.
In less rich countries, hundreds of millions of people rely heavily on small farms which produce foods for the region. If these farms begin to use Monsanto’s terminator technology, and cannot afford to buy new genetically engineered seeds from Monsanto the following year, many of the people in the region may starve. Under normal circumstances, food could be brought in from other regions. However, many of those other regions will likely have the same problems with famine due to Monsanto’s terminator technology.
“It’s terribly dangerous,” says Hope Shand, “half the world’s farmers are poor and can’t afford to buy seed every growing season, yet poor farmers grow 15 to 20% of the world’s food and they directly feed at least 1.4 billion people – 100 million in Latin America, 300 million in Africa, and 1 billion in Asia. These farmers depend upon saved seed and their own breeding skills in adapting other varieties for use on their (often marginal) lands.”
What is even more frightening is that traits from genetically-engineered crops can get passed on to other crops. Once the terminator seeds are released into a region, the trait of seed sterility could be passed to other non-genetically-engineered crops making most or all of the seeds in the region sterile.
Camila Montecinos, an agronomist with the Chilean organization, CET, has another concern, “We’ve talked to a number of crop geneticists who have studied the patent,” she says. “They’re telling us that it’s likely that pollen from crops carrying the Terminator trait will infect the fields of farmers who either reject or can’t afford the technology. Their crop won’t be affected that season but when farmers reach into their bins to sow seed the following season they could discover – too late – that some of their seed is sterile. This could lead to very high yield losses. If the technology is transmitted through recessive genes, we could see several years of irregular harvests and a general – even dramatic – decline in food security for the poorest farm communities.”
Because of the worldwide condemnation of terminator seeds, Monsanto appears to be verbally distancing itself from its own technology that it is in the process of acquiring. Even without the threat of this technology Monsanto is contributing significant to the destruction of health and environment around the world. But if this technology is released by Monsanto, it could spell disaster for hundreds of millions of people around the world. How anyone could invest in such a company is difficult to imagine! (12)
And here is the rest of the Daily Kos discussion of the Monsanto vs. Geertson case:
With giant oil spills and Arizona lawmakers making the headlines every night who has time to pay any attention to a teeny Supreme Court Case? Well you should be. Monsanto Co. vs. Geertson could be the scariest case in Supreme Court history. The Court is hearing arguments this week.
It seems obscure. Monolith seed patenteer Monsanto legally battling some little old organic seed company right? A ruling in Monsanto’s favor could tip the scales and remake farms as we know it. Already Monsanto is well known for bullying farmers by claiming their crops are contaminated with their patented seeds. Now they may be able to push out all private seed companies and have a monopoly on all seed stock sold.
It gets to be a little too much like science fiction in this at this point. You see Monsanto’s patented plants are grown near farms with non-GMO plants. Monsanto stalks about the other farms and collects samples of their plants and seeds. If the Monsanto seed has crossed over to another farmer’s field or a bee that doesn’t respect private property boundaries cross pollinates plants the farmer is taken to court and cleaned out by one of the wealthiest corporations on the planet.
This all started when Monsanto started growing a new type of Alfalfa called RRA or Roundup Ready Alfalfa. Geertson Seed Company is an organic alfalfa grower. If their seed stock is contaminated by nearby Monsanto alfalfa fields they will be unable to label their alfalfa as organic and Monsanto can sue them for growing their patented plants.
Then there are the farmers who feed their livestock on all organic feed and label the meat as organic when it goest to market. If their feed is contaminated by Monsanto’s patented GM plants the farmer’s animals cannot go to market as organic.
This is nothing less than a shake down. Monsanto is practicing corporate cronyism at its worst. Can you imagine what the world will be like if they are able to own patents on nearly all seed stock in the world? They can’t put giant bubbles over fields to contain their plants. Eventually all seed stock will be contaminated with Monsanto’s patented Frankenseeds and they could potentially have a full Monopoly on all food grown on the planet.
Because of the recent Supreme Court favor shown towards corporations Monsanto is probably frothing at the mouth over what a ruling in their favor might mean for their profits. (13)
For more information, readers may also wish to view “Food, Inc.” (14)
(1) http://www.celsias.com/article/ex-monsanto-lawyer-clarence-thomas-hear-major-mons/ See also http://www.cornucopia.org/2010/05/supreme-court-hears-monsanto-v-geertson-arguments/
(6) See, for instance, http://www.percyschmeiser.com/conflict.htm and http://nelsonfarm.net/.
(7) http://www.ammachi.org/humanitarian-activities/social/farmer-project2.html, http://www.ammachi.org/humanitarian-activities/social/farmer-project-report.html and http://www.amma.org/humanitarian-activities/social/amrita-nidhi.html .