by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
argentina, europe, patents, seeds, soy beans, soymeal


European Top Court Tells Monsanto It Can't Abuse Patent Law To Stop Import Of Argentinian Soymeal

from the live-by-the-patent... dept

Seed giant Monsanto is a case study in how abusing patent laws can create serious anti-competitive results. Monsanto, of course, patented various genetically modified seeds, and then aggressively used patent laws around the world to make it so that it was effectively impossible to do much without having to pay Monsanto. The US Supreme Court made things even worse a few years back by saying that Monsanto's patents were infringed upon when farmers hung onto seeds from this year's crop to plant next year (a very common practice in farming). Last week, the US Supreme Court again helped out Monsanto by ruling (mostly) in its favor in another case concerning Monsanto seeds.

However, the company is starting to see a lot more problems with its aggressive stance around the world. This week, the European Court of Justice smacked down Monsanto over its attempt to bar the import of Argentinian soymeal. Apparently Monsanto had failed to get a patent on its famous Roundup Ready soybeans in Argentina (which now dominate the market), and dealt with it by blocking the import of such soybeans to other countries. Argentinian producers figured that if they couldn't sell soybeans directly, they could process it into soymeal and sell that. Monsanto claimed that because the soymeal came from soybeans that would be patented in Europe, the soymeal was also infringing. The court disagreed.

That the court disagreed wasn't a huge surprise. The court had more or less made that clear a few months ago. Because of that, Monsanto tried to duck an important ruling against it by settling the dispute and withdrawing the original patent complaint. The European Court seemed to decide it wasn't going to let Monsanto off that easily. Even with the complaint withdrawn, the Court still went ahead with the judgment, making the point clear.

Separately, some governments are now kicking off investigations into Monsanto's advertising statements about the very same Roundup Ready soybeans. Combine all of that and Monsanto also reported dreadful earnings, with a 45% profit drop.

Once again, we're seeing what happens when you live off of artificial monopolies. They can make you rich in the short term, but they're no trick to building sustainable businesses. What the government gives in the form of monopoly rights, it can also take away.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    AdamR (profile), Jul 7th, 2010 @ 5:15pm

    So they make the seeds and the herbicide. A 42% price increase just to get a 7-11% yield increase seems extreme?

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 5:18pm

    I believe you meant to say that the 45% represents a net earnings drop for the third quarter of this year versus the third quarter of last year.

    Apparently its seed business is holding its own, but it is taking a beating in the herbicide market in the face of what seems to be some pretty stiff competition from other brands and generics.

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

  3. identicon
    abc gum, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 5:19pm

    monsanto - a good illustration of shortsightedness and greed.
    What goes around, comes around - and for the likes of monsanto, hopefully it does not take too long.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 5:20pm

    Word of mouth amongst farmers is that Monsanto will enslave them, and put agriculture in the hands of the U.S. government, that can't be good publicity can it?

    What government will allow their food to become controlled by a foreign country?

    Only the U.S. let that happens.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 5:32pm

    Will the U.S. government have the balls to place the E.U. in the 301 report? or sanction them?

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 5:33pm

    Will the G77 do something about it too?

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 6:44pm


    I don't think you understand. Monsanto is a million times worse than the RIAA. The RIAA is just entertainment. Monsanto is monopolizing food.

    They routinely use legal costs to put small farmers out of business. They throw up a patent infringement lawsuit, and $500,000 later, the farmer has no hope of ever seeing profitability again.

    Whereas the RIAA is just the old guard seeing the death of a natural monopoly on distribution, Monsanto is an active monopolist who have 2 supreme court justices as former employees. They have people with strong company ties in every relevant government office.

    They sued a guy for patent infringement for cross fertilization through a nearby field. They are evil.

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

  8. icon
    Razor Runner (profile), Jul 7th, 2010 @ 6:49pm


    The fact that Monsanto tried to sue a dairy farm (and by association, the state of Maine) shows just how hellbent they are on completely monopolizing the realm of agri-products.
    How a company can honestly sue a dairy because their commitment NOT to use an artificial hormone makes them look "bad" in the consumers eyes is laughable at best.
    Much less that they'd sue a farmer for trying to get the most out of what they paid for by using a few left overs. C'mon....really?!

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:02pm

    We also need to be concerned about the lack of diversity. 97% of U.S. soybeans are Monsanto. I think it is about 80% Monsanto corn and the corn is pervasive, penetrating our food supply through beef, chicken, and pork, modified proteins as preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, and the like.

    If all the music is the same and suddenly no one can tolerate it, then it shouldn't be hard to weather a few years by relying on the classics and public domain, and then wait for artists to make different music.

    If all the food is the same, however, and the currently increasing corn allergies soar or a disease attacks the mono-culture, if Round Up resistant weeds choke out the Monsanto seeds, or if the oil supply fails and we can't grow these lame plants anymore for lack of petroleum fertilizer, then we get a famine, and replacing the collapsed crop with the genetic diversity Monsanto litigated out of cultivation will take longer than the canned food will support us.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:08pm

    And don't forget Monsanto will arrive on a farmer's doorstep and confiscate his records, computer, and other property because he is ~not~ buying or planting Monsanto seed, but a neighbor did, and some of his pollen tainted the non-Monsanto field. They then litigate until said farmer (who doesn't have his records to defend himself) gives up and goes out of business.

    The land is then sold to meet the court costs, and when it has been turned under to "development" it will never be regained.

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

  11. identicon
    Pixelation, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:33pm

    Hope against hope

    Let's hope these a-holes go out of business. Monsanto is a boil on the ass of America.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:38pm

    The U.S. is the government granted monopoly capital of the world. and then it turns around and pretends that it's the free market capitalism capital of the world. What a lie.

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

  13. icon
    Thomas (profile), Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:39pm

    Dear Mike:

    Please post more agribusiness articles. This seems to be the only kind of thread where we get relevant, intelligent comments from AC's. If the full story of Monsanto's abuses is ever told, it will be world changing in its scope.

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

  14. icon
    Aerilus (profile), Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:43pm


    personally I find the whole concept of anti-competition extremely humorous, I just feel like the world is ignoring the lessons that it should have learned from the cold war. there is a very good documentary on patented seed on the American corn industry called king corn it is very scary stuff.

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 7:51pm

    Re: Dear Mike:

    This is more of a tech blog. I'm sure there are many many other blogs out there that fulfill the Monsanto is evil niche. and I do agree, Monsanto is very evil, but for this blog to fully appreciate it would distract from some of the other issues this blog discusses which would probably diminish value to some of its niche members who I'm sure can find many many other blogs out there that go into tons of detail about Monsanto if they wanted to.

    Of course that's not to say that the scope of this blog can't overlap with Monsanto issues from time to time, it certainly does, and when it does Techdirt discusses it. But I don't think it's a good idea for Mike and perhaps posters here to spread their discussion scope too thin, because that requires a lot more time keeping up with and investigating Monsanto in detail and being that time is limited it takes away from some of the details that can be discussed on other topics.

    What might be a good idea is if other Techdirt moderators focused on Monsanto and perhaps blogged about it, moderators who can spend time investigating these issues and formulating defensible positions in more detail without taking away Mike's time used to come up with defensible positions on the topics that he discusses. Then again, I'm sure there are many many other blogs that do that already.

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

  16. identicon
    Colg, Jul 7th, 2010 @ 8:16pm

    Monsanto rant

    Well I was about to come on and rant about what absolute slime Monsanto is but I find I have been thoroughly beaten to the punch!

    Good job!

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

  17. icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 8th, 2010 @ 7:35am


    I couldn't find the article but someone out of africa recently came up with a natural fertilizer that requires a tank, water, a specific bacteria, and plant waste that puts monsantos plants to shame. They are getting 50% better yeilds over monsantos seeds. It was in an article about plant blight I believe.

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

  18. icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), Jul 8th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re:

    Absolutely agree. I don't throw around the word 'evil' very often, it seems kind of corny in this day and age, but Monsanto is the very definition of evil. I wish more attention was focused on Monsanto's lawsuits and practices.

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 8th, 2010 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: Dear Mike:

    I can't agree with you: Monsanto uses 'tech', as in gene-splicing and other genetic modifications, claims copyrights, patents, and trademarks on these modifications and then heavy-handedly litigates against any and all who would thwart their dominance. The cross-polinating case is a superb example. How can anyone, with a straight face, justify suing a farmer because his neighbor's crops cross-polinated his own? Keep in mind, this is the WIND that committed this heinous act, not either farmer. I guess all farmers are supposed to erect glass domes around their farms to keep from infringing on Monsanto's copyrights/patents? Techdirt is absolutely the right forum for disclosing Monsanto's behaviour, even if there are other blogs that also do this.

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

  20. identicon
    DCX2, Jul 8th, 2010 @ 12:28pm

    Dog pile on Monsanto!

    What a crap company. I hope they fail. Suing people over their food...thank god their Terminator gene was never put to use.

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

  21. identicon
    asdf, Jul 8th, 2010 @ 10:26pm


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

  22. identicon
    Uncle B, Jul 9th, 2010 @ 10:54am

    $Monsanto and $Microsoft - The Corporatists

    As America recedes from greatness internationally due to over-manipulated fiat dollars and unfair, irresponsible, erratic and even illegitimate business practices, Asians present a "Better Formula" to the world and are widely accepted as fast as Yankee Doodle and his "carpet-baggers" are rejected. Yankee! "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time" Especially if the slant eyed competition plays with an unmarked deck and gives value for money spent! Now! go eat your hormone infested meat, drink your hormone laced milk, drive your planned obsolescent cars, and live in your McMansions in peace - but don't expect the rest of the world to pay for this mayhem - we are too busy doing honest business and getting return for dollars spent with Asians. There was a time when Made in America meant value for dollar spent - a time when merry Oldsmobile's were in abundance and Bing Crosby was a big star. Detroit once ruled the Automotive world, and America's Automotive engineers were the finest in the world. These days have been sold out to Asian interests by our Uber-Rich, as we were! Now we have a new paradigm, a new, desperate and destructive corporatist in America! Google, torrent the movie, "Who Stole The Electric Car" for documentation on his destructiveness to the average patriot, and to the country. Soon, the BYD electric volt knock-off made in Shanghai will be sold on American streets at high mark-ups with wide profit margins for the Corporatists. Nothing in democracy can stop the corporatists invasive cancer in the heart of our democracy - the corporatists even lobby our government to circumvent our votes and we are doomed in America to a Third World existence, coming in the troughs of the next down-cycle of our economy. Check the price of oil as an indicator of this fate for the patriots of America and remember, we are owned partially by oil baron corporatists and partially by Chinese communists!Damned if we do! Damned if we don't!

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

  23. identicon
    Jan, Jul 10th, 2010 @ 3:09pm


    And the fact that more people are learning how toxic Round Up really is.

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

  24. identicon
    Voice, Nov 29th, 2010 @ 8:22pm

    Monsanto is different from a lot of other companies that appear on this website in that they are actively destroying the lives of people. Monsanto doesn't keep people from enjoying free culture or make it difficult for a small business to start up by getting idiotic laws passed. Monsanto takes farmers, most of whom have been farming for generations, and bankrupts them, destroying their lives and livelihood and sending them into debt from which they will never recover.

    Monsanto is one of the very few truly evil companies posted about on this site.

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

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