Organic Consumers Association

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Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers

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

In 2003, CFS launched an investigation to determine the extent to which American farmers are impacted by litigation arising from the use of patented, genetically engineered ("GE" or "transgenic") crops. This investigation culminated in a 2005 report, a comprehensive assessment of Monsanto Company's use of U.S. patent law to control the use of staple crop seeds by farmers. The groundbreaking report, Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers, details the results of this research, discusses the ramifications for the future of U.S. farming, and provides policy recommendations for improvement.

 At that time, we documented that recorded judgments granted to Monsanto amounted to over 15 million dollars.1 Applying its significant financial and legal resources, Monsanto has also forced farmers to pay an estimated hundreds of millions more through confidential out-of-court settlements. We have regularly documented this pernicious practice to the present day. By the end of 2012, Monsanto had received over $23.5 million from patent infringement lawsuits against farmers and farm businesses.

 As this new report discusses, farmers continue to be persecuted for issues pertaining to seed patents.

Intensifying this assault, other agrichemical corporations are poised to join Monsanto in their prosecution of U.S. farmers. Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers records the current relationship between farmers and the "seed giants," the world's largest agrichemical companies, which today have created a seed oligarchy. It also explains the history of seeds in the U.S. and summarizes how patent and intellectual property (IP) decisions and policies impact broader socio-economic and environmental issues.

 Our newest report is timely because the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to hear legal argument in Bowman v. Monsanto this year (2013). The case concerns Monsanto's prosecution of 75-year-old Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman. The company alleges that Mr. Bowman infringed upon its seed patents by purchasing and planting undifferentiated seeds from a grain elevator. Mr. Bowman's case, one of hundreds discovered in our investigations, is a microcosm of the problem of farmer prosecution that the current system created and fosters. The Supreme Court's upcoming decision will greatly impact the future relationship between farmers and the agrichemical companies, and, in turn, have wide-ranging ramifications for independent scientific research, the sustainability of American agriculture, and the food we eat.
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