How Monsanto Used Gene Patents To Corner The Market In Seeds

from the you-can't-eat-without-eating-Monsanto dept

Dark Helmet points us to the news of an Associated Press investigation into how Monsanto basically cornered the market in seeds by using gene patents and coercive licensing agreements that basically make it impossible to grow certain products without having to first reach a restrictive agreement with Monsanto. And they did this all in about a dozen years. Gene patents are already troubling enough, and reading this report on how Monsanto used its gene patents to basically wipe out all competition is quite telling in exactly how patents can be used to significantly harm a market. Of course, beyond the ridiculousness of gene patents, this situation has been made worse by the recent Supreme Court decision that said that Monsanto could put an end user license agreement on seeds, such that even if you collected seeds from your own harvest to replant them, you could be found guilty of infringing on Monsanto's patents. The investigation here details how Monsanto basically has completely cornered the market, even limiting publicly funded research into certain seeds. And, of course, now the company is raising prices on various seeds when many farmers have little in the way of other options.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 2:46pm

    Proof positive...

    That this man knows his seeds....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Beefcake (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 3:47pm

    AC / DC Agriculture

    Dirty seeds, done dirt cheap.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    The Baker (Farmer), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:07pm

    Appropiate comparisons

    Plant seeds spread naturally via the wind, birds, critters, run off. Monsanto checked the fields of farmers (Trespassed without the farmers permission) that would not sign up to Monsanto's programs. If they found one seed that had the genetics of Monsanto's product, they demanded a settlement that amounted to the farmer's entire crop or sued the farmer for much more than it would be worth to just settle. Sound familiar? This had and continues to have a chilling effect on the family and small farms in the USA. Even though this has been reported and investigated, there was no public outcry and Monsanto continues to seed the worlds food supply with its genetically tagged seeds ... with its ELUA.

    This RIAA/MPAA entertainment industry in bed with Biden isn't new, Monsanto and the government has been in bed since before agent orange. I'm sure there are many more examples.

    I'm glad that the cottage cheesed colored Dark Helmet brought this to light again.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:07pm

    Re: Proof positive...

    Really Dark Helmet?
    Are you really doing what I think you're doing?

    Wow.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    ., Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:11pm

    Food inc.

    If the documentary about that thing is right.

    Monsanto also uses the wind as a agent enforcer.

    They have lists of people who don't use their seeds and know that it will get contaminated by crops nearby that use it so they send enforcers to investigate and get samples and if they find their genetic modified crops they sue the farmer and take over his crop.

    Maybe this is why Europeans don't want genetic modified crops near them.

    Only fools will let a foreigner corporation take over control of their entire crop industry.

    Is that why Bush was so in favor of that and spoke so many times about that?

    Could this lead to famine in the U.S. because only one corporation is controlling everything?

    I don't know but that scares me. My food in the hands of a company that have no interest in the society health or wealth.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    ., Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:18pm

    Food libel laws.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_libel_laws

    Are used to stop critics, they are lax and tilt the balance in favor of producers(the big ones of course).

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Mike, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Re: Food inc.

    Great movie, everyone should see it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Mike, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:54pm

    Re: Food inc.

    Hold on, Monsanto isn't just in the USA. This is happening everywhere in the WORLD.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:57pm

    And our response to this?

    "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. "

    Of course Monsanto has abused the law here, and they should be rightfully blamed for doing so, but what can enforcement do when the law is on Monsanto's side? This is an excellent opportunity to show the extreme badness in granting at least 1 type of patent, and the horrible effects of that. One can only hope that the attention on this matter reaches the only logical conclusion of invaliding such poorly thought through patent validation.

    I mean, what else can the DOJ or an AG do besides toot their own horn? and why would they bring up an investigation to only do that ... oh ... crap ...

     

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  10.  
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    Derek Bredensteiner (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Food inc.

    So ... invalidate some patents? or suffer through famine?

    Which will we choose? God I hope we're not that stupid.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    IANAL, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 5:18pm

    Selective Enforcement

    I thought there were laws addressing monopoly practices.

     

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  12.  
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    zcat (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 5:41pm

    Re: Re: Food inc.

    Which is why we need international IP enforcement treaties like TRIPS an ACTA. Otherwise we have sneaky 'pirates' like Nelson Mandela declaring patents invalid in their own country in order to save lives. And we can't let something as trivial as millions of completely unnecessary deaths get in the way of profit!

     

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  13.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Selective Enforcement

    That's the problem, patents are monopolies granted by the government.

     

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  14.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Re: Food inc.

    "Great movie, everyone should see it."

    I can think of five hundred odd people who should be *required* to see it.

     

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  15.  
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    Grimace (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 6:21pm

    Can't farmers not use the patented technology?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 6:26pm

    Re:

    Yup, but then the story would be much less compelling. It is hard to generate interest in a story entitled "Monsanto unable to sue a farmer because of non-infringement".

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    ., Dec 16th, 2009 @ 6:58pm

    Subsides

    Subsides pays Monsanto so they keep charging more as they gain more control and the people pay more taxes to have the illusion of cheap food :)

    Yep that works great.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    ., Dec 16th, 2009 @ 7:26pm

    Fiat Money.

    Austrian Economist Ludwig von Mises arguing in his book, Human Action, that, "What is needed for a sound expansion of production is additional capital goods, not money or fiduciary media. The credit boom is built on the sands of banknotes and deposits. It must collapse."

    Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve Chairman from 1987 to 2006, was a critic of fiat money in his early career, arguing in his essay, Gold and Economic Freedom, that,

    This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists' tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists' antagonism toward the gold standard

    The "knowledge economy" is like "fiat money" is based on shabby foundations trumpeted as real but they are just shaky.

    There is no way to enforce those things in a long run and they will fail but people will suffer first.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 7:26pm

    Re: Re:

    Farmers can't make a living because of monopoly practices ?

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    divfarms, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 7:28pm

    this same company made agent orange which destroyed many lives

     

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  21.  
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    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 7:57pm

    "Monsanto basically cornered the market in seeds by using gene patents and coercive licensing agreements"

    DAMN if this isn't a repeat of the way M$ does business with the computer hardware industry (Dell, HP, etc). Since i'm not a farmer, simply NOT using Monsanto products in gardening shouldn't be too much of a problem. ;)
    I'm still able to get imported rice and veggies from select asian importers, so go figure. Outside the US, Monsanto isn't exactly everywhere. ;)

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    inc, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 8:02pm

    Re: Re: Food inc.

    I was thinking the same thing. That movie illustrates exactly who is being harmed by such patents. I think this is a perfect case for eminent domain to condemn this patent and provide it to the public. If food shortages arise of such tactics the civil unrest maybe too much to handle.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 8:43pm

    Re: Fiat Money.

    So, um, I guess, I am a little confused.

    When you die, do you get to take it with you? Or do you just desire to leave all your riches to the man aside you on your deathbed?

    If you're worth anything, they will oftentimes be lawyers and people who have a vested interest in you... Dying.

    What we're starting to see here is the divestiture of early boomers into businesses to strengthen their 1970s mentality, ergo into their family. Should it continue, it will be a very troubling future.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Triatomic Tortoise, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 9:00pm

    Evil Monsanto

    The company knows how to exploit the precious unpatented seeds from all over the world - specially the developing countries. They steal their own seeds, patent them and ask for royalty payment from the poor farmers. Their have been a lot of documentaries on how evil they are.

    http://www.seventhgeneration.com/learn/inspiredprotagonist/monsanto-evil-company

    http://w ww.groovygreen.com/groove/?p=2921

    Watch the video: http://happyfood-funnyfarm.blogspot.com/2009/05/monsanto-is-way-more-evil-than-i-ever.html

    http:/ /www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_13123.cfm

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 9:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Food inc.

    Eminent domain is only used to take houses away from individuals in the name of saving some obscure bird that doesn't need saving and then a year later taking the property off of eminent domain and handing it over to Wal Mart or some other big corporation. The corporate interest is more important than the public interest.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 9:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Food inc.

    In fact there was an episode of Pen and Teller about this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 9:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Food inc.

    In fact the bird will probably be happier without eminent domain because Wal Mart will probably implement measures to keep birds off its property.

    Will someone please think of the birds?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 10:23pm

    Re: "Monsanto basically cornered the market in seeds by using gene patents and coercive licensing agreements"

    See The Baker's comment above:
    "Monsanto checked the fields of farmers (Trespassed without the farmers permission) that would not sign up to Monsanto's programs. If they found one seed that had the genetics of Monsanto's product, they demanded a settlement that amounted to the farmer's entire crop or sued the farmer for much more than it would be worth to just settle. Sound familiar?

    Hard not possessing their product when nature spreads it from a neighboring field.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2009 @ 11:54pm

    This was news in 2003

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Angry Farmers Kid, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 12:28am

    Re: This was news in 2003

    So the lesson here is???
    And how does it apply to what us geeks that read TechDirt???

    Six years on and nothing is happening, no public outrage, no investigations, even though this indirectly affects everyone on the planet nothing is being done. Monsanto and the big four are getting bigger and being subsidized by the taxpayers in many ways. Sony, EMI, Columbia and the likes have learned, and the prospect of this happening in the entertainment industry and the High tech sector is not only possible but probable. Mike constantly points out that the entertainment industry is doing better than ever, with these dollars they can purchase the same influence and control over our patent office and regulatory agencies as Monsanto has. If they haven't already.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    The Baker, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 12:37am

    Well worth looking at

    The documentary called the Future of Food is a documentary that relates directly to this post. As in any documentary it is biased, uses emotional ploys to make it's point and is a wee bit dated. But if you look past that, use your brain and common sense and think how it applies to what we talk about here on Tech Dirt all of the time, there is a underlying truth and a serious lesson. We think the battles fought over fair use, the large corporations using power and bully tactics against the consumer, our government doing a terrible disservice to we the people is new. It is not. This is just one example:
    Search for "The Future of Food" on Hulu
    http://www.hulu.com/watch/67878/the-future-of-food

     

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  32.  
    icon
    Jimr (profile), Dec 17th, 2009 @ 5:17am

    Yes and if your neighbors field has Monsanto seeds and they just happen to germinate and/or spread to your field then you are also infringing on Monsanto seeds and need to pay up.

    I can not find the case right now but it was in the news few years ago. Some of the Monsanto seed spread into the neighbors fields and after a Seed DNA test that proved some of the crop was in fact the Monsanto seed they where forced to pay up. Given the balance sheet of many farms a legal fight and loss would bankrupt most farms. The evil side of me thinks this would be a good way to bankrupt your neighbors and buy up their land so you could grow more Monsanto seeds.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    John, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 5:29am

    Food Inc. Having an Impact

    Just last night I heard a monsanto radio spot pleading some "plight of the american farmer" bs. At this point it's all damage control and I for one am not buying it. The patent system in this country has gotten seriously f-ed up.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 5:58am

    Re:

    I hope you find the link. A lot of people have been repeating the story of that seems to imply that dozens, hundreds or even thousands of farmers have been sued by Monsanto even though they never purchased Monsanto's seeds - the wind blowing scenario. Rather than just repeating the same mantra over and over an actual link would be nice.

     

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  35.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 17th, 2009 @ 7:04am

    Re: "Monsanto basically cornered the market in seeds by using gene patents and coercive licensing agreements"

    "Outside the US, Monsanto isn't exactly everywhere. ;)"

    Er, the article I believe suggested they're roughly 95% of the soy market. Soy is used in, well, just about everything. So to that extent, they're ALMOST everywhere, and with 95% of crops including their genes, nature should move them to 100% before too long...

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Jeff, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 8:11am

    Links

    Here are some links detailing Monsanto's abuse of farmers... For more use news.google.com and search for Monsanto seeds. If you want more info than that use the advanced search and ask for articles going way back. Just skimming through the returned links shows how relentless Monsanto is in their "enforcement". I'm not sure which is more sad, the fact that Monsanto can patent genes or that our legal system doesn't inject some common sense into this discussion. The fact that a farmer can lose their livelihood to something as absurd as a plant or two growing on your property is disturbing beyond all comprehension.
    http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2000/06/37088?currentPage=1

    http://www.newscientist .com/article/dn586-blowing-in-the-wind.html

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,9901 11-1,00.html

    http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/news/?id=c255ae23-f41a-470d-8460-a65d65df6f58

    http://www.bartletteandsteele.com/journalism/vf_monsanto_2.php

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 10:20pm

    Re:

    It was in Canada

    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/conflict.htm

    Eventually he didn't have to pay, but only on a technicality. All the courts EXCEPT the supreme court ruled against Schmeiser, so basically Schmeiser had to spend TONS of money going up the expensive court chain until he eventually won when the supreme court heard the case. So in the end he really lost, he may have won the case but he lost tons of money (and time) winning that case (it's not like Monsanto paid for his court fees).

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 10:23pm

    Re: Re:

    You might also find this interesting.

    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/profile.htm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 10:39pm

    Re: Re:

    "After about six years of court battling, Schmeiser guesses his legal bills have totalled close to C$400,000. Schmeiser says he has lost the right to use his strain of canola, which took him 50 years to develop, because he can not prove they do not include the Roundup Ready gene Monsanto patented. (Furthermore, he says that on the advice of his lawyers, he destroyed all his seed and purchased new seed, so his strain of canola no longer exists, which presents an additional obstacle to his continuing to farm it. However, he was ordered to turn over all his remaining seed from his 1997 and 1998 crops to Monsanto, so even if he hadn't eradicated his own strain on his own initiative, it would likely not have survived.)"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto_Canada_Inc._v._Schmeiser

    Of course all of this was before the Internet was as able to spread news as it is now. This is just more evidence of the uselessness of the mainstream media to spread important news. Without the Internet the mainstream media would intentionally censor this news from the public because they know darn well public outrage would never allow Monsanto to do what they did to this farmer but mainstream media only sides with rich and powerful corporations. and to the extent that mainstream media doesn't censor similar stories today and to the extent that they don't broadcast nothing but lies anymore it's only because doing so would give them a bad reputation on the Internet. and the government, mainstream media, big corporations, etc... are working very hard to turn the Internet into the same nonsense that mainstream media has turned into.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 10:43pm

    Re: Re:

    and even though he didn't have to pay, he still had to destroy his seeds that were contaminated by Monsantos patented genes, despite the fact that they were accidentally contaminated and that he did not do anything to contaminate them (and he spent 50 years working on perfecting his own seeds to work the way he wants, long before Monsanto even released their patented nonsense to the public).

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 10:43pm

    Re: Re:

    and people have provided links, I'm sure you just ignore them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2009 @ 10:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Now lets fast forward this a few years, 2008, where the Internet becomes a more prominent source of information.

    Now remember this guy got whole new seeds and they got contaminated too. But guess what Schmeiser did this time.

    "On 19 March 2008 Monsanto accepted their responsibility for the genetic contamination of Schmeiser’s canola fields in an out of court settlement between Percy Schmeiser and Monsanto.
    ...
    In 2005 Schmeiser again found Monsanto GM Rap plants on his fields. He informed Monsanto and demanded that the company remove the plants. Monsanto confirmed to Schmeiser that the plants were Roundup-Ready raps and therefore property of Monsanto. Referring to the existing judgement that the owner of a plant is also liable for plant contamination damages, Schmeiser had the plants removed professionally and forwarded the removal cost invoice to Monsanto.

    In earlier attempts to achieve an out of court settlement, Monsanto had not consented to paying the removal cost amounting to $660, so Schmeiser subsequently had sued the company. Monsanto would have paid for the contamination damage, but only under the condition that Schmeiser signed a “gag agreement”, i.e. he would agree not to talk about the damage case ... Schmeiser rejected. ... When the judge asked why Monsanto had not simply paid the very small sum of $ 660, Monsanto’s lawyer Richard W. Danyliuk responded that there was a lot more involved than just $ 660.

    One hour before the court hearing was scheduled on March 19, 2008 Monsanto accepted all demands of Percy Schmeiser as well as their responsibility for the contamination of Schmeiser’s fields. Monsanto does not only pay for the damage but also accepts that Schmeiser reports and informs the public about the background and that he can express his opinion and position about this case in public."

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9494

    Had it not been for the Internet Schmeiser would have once again lost because the mainstream media would have completely failed to report on the subject (and to the extent that they do/would report on it now it's only because not doing so would make them look bad thanks to the Internet). Before the Internets current prominence the mainstream media pretty much ignored this case and as a result Monsanto won a case thanks to absolutely ridiculous court rulings and a lack of public awareness.

     

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  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2010 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Well worth looking at

    I also watched this documentary... the future of food. I wanted an up-date to see if any progress has happened since the release of this film. What I do know is that Corporations are under the microscope these days. Walmart is right in there with those bad boys. Not too big to fail covers all Large corporations and it's about time someone brought them to their knees. When it's about power and greed the public safety goes out the window as we all now know... if their seeds have human health issues consequences that might evolve then we are all in deep doo doo. There is pressure in DC to change the supreme court ruling about large corporations and campaign funding and lobbyist's, I think that this places a hugh part in the patening of seeds. I hate walmart.... they are too big... but not too big to fail.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2010 @ 8:29pm

    The thing I hate the most is the large corporations have all the $$$, so they first patent the "new seed", then they go and spend their vast resorces to destroy other peoples lifes for personal gain.

     

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  45.  
    identicon
    Justin Klinkebiel, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Corruption!!

    This goes way beyond a multinational corporation patenting seeds for domination and total collapse of the organic, natural seed industry. The fact that the Supreme Court allowed Monsanto to put and end all license agreement on organic/natural seed is corruption within the legal system to the highest levels...the popular vote is a lie for the simple fact that this patenting takeover of the seed industry, for our very ability to grow unmodified, natural foods, is being deliberately looked over for the vote of the bought-out lobbyists and politicians...

     

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  46.  
    identicon
    firecat301, Nov 24th, 2010 @ 8:51am

    Corner on seeds

    This is pitiful!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Pool Tables For Sale, Dec 18th, 2010 @ 7:36pm

    Re: Appropiate comparisons

    Yeah, what will happen if pollination took place?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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