Utne Blogs > Environment

Organic v. Monsanto

by Danielle Magnuson


Tags: Monsanto, organic, patent infringement, farming, genetic modification, antitrust, sustainable, slow food, locavore, agriculture, environment, The Street, Cornucopia Institute, Danielle Magnuson,

Farmers Market 

More than 270,000 organic farmers are taking on corporate agriculture giant Monsanto in a lawsuit filed March 30. Led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, the family farmers are fighting for the right to keep a portion of the world food supply organic—and preemptively protecting themselves from accusations of stealing genetically modified seeds that drift on to their pristine crop fields.

Consumers are powerful. For more than a decade, a cultural shift has seen shoppers renounce the faster-fatter-bigger-cheaper mindset of factory farms, exposéd in the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. From heirloom tomatoes to heritage chickens, we want our food slow, sustainable, and local—healthy for the earth, healthy for animals, and healthy for our bodies.

But with patented seeds infiltrating the environment so fully, organic itself is at risk. Monsanto’s widely used Genuity® Roundup Ready® canola seed has already turned heirloom canola oil into an extinct species. The suing farmers are seeking to prevent similar contamination of organic corn, soybeans, and a host of other crops. What’s more, they’re seeking to prevent Monsanto from accusing them of unlawfully using the very seeds they’re trying to avoid.

“It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement,” says Public Patent Foundation director Dan Ravicher in a Cornucopia Institute article about the farmers’ lawsuit (May 30, 2011), “but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement.”

Even as the megacorporation enjoys soaring stock, the U.S. justice department continues to look into allegations of its fraudulent antitrust practices (The Street, June 29, 2011):

Monsanto, which has acquired more than 20 of the nation’s biggest seed producers and sellers over the last decade, has long pursued a strict policy with its customers, obligating them to buy its bioengineered seeds every year rather than use them in multiple planting seasons. Farmers who disobey are blacklisted forever.

It’s a wide net Monsanto has cast over the agricultural landscape. As Ravicher points out, “it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply.” Imagine a world devoid of naturally vigorous traditional crops and controlled by a single business with a appetite for intellectual property. Did anyone else feel a cold wind pass through them? Now imagine a world where thousands of family farmers fight the good fight to continue giving consumers a choice in their food—and win.

Source: Cornucopia Institute, The Street 

Image by NatalieMaynor, licensed under Creative Commons. 

tina engressia
7/20/2012 2:48:27 PM

like tammy wrote: "In order to "empower the people", please add more information, or a section on "What you can do...." that's what i would like to see as well. i'm sold on the fact that this whole gmo issue is a real bad idea. besides help to raise awareness what else can i be doing. the monsanto rider for example. what can we do to derail that? thank you, tina

billl brodhead
1/8/2012 5:35:40 PM

They used to spray toxic neurotoxin pesticides on the outside of plants that could at least be washed off. Now the toxins are genetically modified and are inside the food - who thought of such a stupid idea to save a few cents. INSANE.

rosalie stafford
8/17/2011 12:56:07 PM

"heirloom canola oil"? No such thing. Rapeseed oil is an industrial lubricant; highly refined (with super-heated with hexane) is is pushed as a "healthful" oil. Canola is a recent hybrid -- now a GM hybrid -- even the name is new, invented by marketers.

maeve smith
8/17/2011 12:24:51 PM

It would be one of the happyest days of my life to see this sociopathic, evil company go to the dogs. My faith in democracy would be half way restored if governments didn't interfere in the public outcry that would insue if we were allowed to know the truth about this company and the illegal way they do business. It would make Phone Hacking look nothing in comparison.... I am feeling on top of the world anout this news :-)

8/15/2011 12:19:56 AM

While I am not a proponent of genetically modified seed and I do favor "natural" products, I don't believe the government should regulate this. This is not one of the seventeen powers ceded to the federal government by the Constitution. This is something that should be left to the free market to control. If enough people are opposed to it, Monsanto will find it to be unprofitable and will remove it from the market.

7/30/2011 6:34:40 PM

I am willing to join the fight by donating time, money, whatever. Monsanto is the most evil corporation on the planet. Even more destructive than our current president.

7/29/2011 1:34:36 PM

In order to "empower the people", please add more information, or a section on "What you can do...." Thanks

7/28/2011 4:37:18 PM

How can we support these farmers who are suing Monsanto?

patricia menzies
7/27/2011 12:36:52 AM

@skylaire - Try this link: http://www.osgata.org/osgata-as-lead-plaintiff-against-monsanto This is a newly-filed, ongoing case which was updated in June. UTNE is on top of things. There's even a link in the article to an article about the filing in March. You might have thrown the search off by putting the LA Times in the search field. The suit was filed federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. The fight continues.

7/26/2011 2:14:41 AM

After finding this story, I Googled Monsanto lawsuit and LA Times and got an article... from 1988. So glad to know the mainstream media is on top of this very, very important story. Thanks, Utne Reader!

7/26/2011 2:14:05 AM

After finding this story, I Googled Monsanto lawsuit and LA Times and got an article... from 1988. So glad to know the mainstream media is on top of this very, very important story. Thanks, Utne Reader!

amy glaser
7/19/2011 10:43:48 AM

King Corn is another documentary that really opens your eyes to food via corporations. Scary stuff. Rock on to all of those who are standing up to Monsanto.