[permaculture] Fw: [cban e-News] Monsanto's control over seeds and the seed market:Investigation
fdnokes at hotmail.com
fdnokes at hotmail.com
Sun Dec 13 17:30:53 EST 2009
Thanks for expressing an interest in the issue of genetically modified or genetically engineered seeds.
It is a practice that destroys our seed specimens, as well as bringing on huge applications of poisonous materials, and breaking farmers' on every level.
Even other companies in the business of ge are having a hard time, due to Monsanto.
This forwarded message does not bear good news.
But there is much here on the boards for the U.S. and the Justice Dept. is currently investigating.
This is possibly one of the reasons why so many more have grown interested in self sustaining practices.
From: Lucy Sharratt - CBAN Coordinator
Sent: Sunday, December 13, 2009 2:34 PM
To: cban-e-news at cban.ca
Subject: [cban e-News] Monsanto's control over seeds and the seed market:Investigation
Also see that there is a new report: "The Seed Price Premium: The Magnitude and Impact of the Biotech and Organic Seed Price Premium" www.organic-center.org
Monsanto seed business role revealed
By Christopher Leonard, Associated Press
December 14 2009
Confidential contracts detailing Monsanto Co.'s business practices reveal how the world's biggest seed developer is squeezing competitors, controlling smaller seed companies and protecting its dominance over the multibillion-dollar market for genetically altered crops, an Associated Press investigation has found.
With Monsanto's patented genes being inserted into roughly 95 percent of all soybeans and 80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S., the company also is using its wide reach to control the ability of new biotech firms to get wide distribution for their products, according to a review of several Monsanto licensing agreements and dozens of interviews with seed industry participants, agriculture and legal experts.
Monsanto's methods are spelled out in a series of confidential commercial licensing agreements obtained by the AP. The contracts, as long as 30 pages, include basic terms for the selling of engineered crops resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, along with shorter supplementary agreements that address new Monsanto traits or other contract amendments.
The company has used the agreements to spread its technology - giving some 200 smaller companies the right to insert Monsanto's genes in their separate strains of corn and soybean plants. But, the AP found, access to Monsanto's genes comes at a cost, and with plenty of strings attached. For example, one contract provision bans independent companies from breeding plants that contain both Monsanto's genes and the genes of any of its competitors, unless Monsanto gives prior written permission - giving Monsanto the ability to effectively lock out competitors from inserting their patented traits into the vast share of U.S. crops that already contain Monsanto's genes.
Monsanto's business strategies and licensing agreements are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and at least two state attorneys general, who are trying to determine if the practices violate U.S. antitrust laws.
"We now believe that Monsanto has control over as much as 90 percent of (seed genetics). This level of control is almost unbelievable," said Neil Harl, agricultural economist at Iowa State University. "The upshot of that is that it's tightening Monsanto's control, and makes it possible for them to increase their prices long term. And we've seen this happening the last five years, and the end is not in sight."
At issue is how much power one company can have over seeds, the foundation of the world's food supply. Without stiff competition, Monsanto could raise its seed prices at will, which in turn could raise the cost of everything from animal feed to wheat bread and cookies.
One of the numerous provisions in the licensing agreements is a ban on mixing genes - or "stacking" in industry lingo - that enhance Monsanto's power.
Independent seed company owners could drop their contracts with Monsanto and return to selling conventional seed, but they say it could be financially ruinous. Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene has become the industry standard over the last decade, and small companies fear losing customers if they drop it. It also can take years of breeding and investment to mix Monsanto's genes into a seed company's product line, so dropping the genes can be costly.
A spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said the office is examining possible antitrust violations. Additionally, two sources familiar with an investigation in Texas said state Attorney General Greg Abbott's office is considering the same issues. States have the authority to enforce federal antitrust law, and attorneys general are often involved in such cases.
Any Justice Department case against Monsanto could break new ground in balancing a company's right to control its patented products while protecting competitors' right to free and open competition, said Kevin Arquit, former director of the Federal Trade Commission competition bureau and now a antitrust attorney with Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in New York. "These are very interesting issues, and not just for the companies, but for the Justice Department," Arquit said. "They're in an area where there is uncertainty in the law and there are consumer welfare implications and government policy implications for whatever the result is."
Monsanto was only a niche player in the seed business just 12 years ago. It rose to the top thanks to innovation by its scientists and aggressive use of patent law by its attorneys.
Roger Boerma, a research professor at the University of Georgia, is developing specialized strains of soybeans that grow well in southeastern states, but his current research is tangled up in such restrictions from Monsanto and its competitors. "It's made one level of our life incredibly challenging and difficult," Boerma said. The rules also can restrict research. Boerma halted research on a line of new soybean plants that contain a trait from a Monsanto competitor when he learned that the trait was ineffective unless it could be mixed with Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene.
Some independent seed company owners say they feel increasingly pinched as Monsanto cements its leadership in the industry. "They have the capital, they have the resources, they own lots of companies, and buying more. We're small town, they're Wall Street," said Bill Cook, co-owner of M-Pride Genetics seed company in Garden City, Mo., who also declined to discuss or provide the agreements. "It's very difficult to compete in this environment against companies like Monsanto."
Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)
Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
431 Gilmour Street, Second Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 0R5
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext.6
Fax: 613 241 2506
coordinator at cban.ca
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