Don't Miss Out

Subscribe to OCA's News & Alerts.

The Battle for Biodiversity: Monsanto and Farmers Clash

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Farm Issues page, Genetic Engineering page, and our Millions against Monsanto page.

Two weeks ago, Monsanto announced the latest genetically engineered crop it hopes to bring to market: a soybean rejiggered to resist the herbicide dicamba. The new product, says Monsanto, will aid in weed control and "deliver peace of mind for growers."

Meanwhile, half a world away, La Via Campesina, a farmers' movement of 150 organizations from 70 countries, had a slightly different idea about what would bring peace of mind to its millions of members: protecting biodiversity. In its statement to those gathered in Bali for the United Nations treaty on plant genetics, the organization urged treaty drafters to reevaluate the legal framework that allows seed patenting and the spread of genetically engineered crops, like those Monsanto soybeans. These genetically modified crops and the international patent regime, La Via Campesina said, block farmers' ability to save and share seeds, threatening biodiversity and food security. 

Monsanto and La Via Campesina represent two distinct worldviews. According to Monsanto and other chemical and seed giants like Syngenta, BASF, and Dupont, corporate control of seeds and relaxed laws for biotech promotion spur innovation and productivity.

That may sound good, but La Via Campesina and many other groups around the world look at the real-world effects of 20 years of patent approvals and the spread of biotech crops. These critics argue that corporate power over seeds has actually undermined biodiversity and food-system resilience.