This radical departure from age-old practice has created turmoil in farm country.
Some farmers don’t fully understand that they aren’t supposed to save Monsanto’s seeds for next year’s planting. Most Americans know Monsanto because of what it sells to put on our lawns— the ubiquitous weed killer Roundup.
Others do, but ignore the stipulation rather than throw away a perfectly usable product. seeds to get mixed in with traditional varieties when seeds are cleaned by commercial dealers for re-planting. seeds and doesn’t want them on his land, it’s a safe bet he’ll get a visit from Monsanto’s seed police if crops grown from G. What they may not know is that the company now profoundly influences—and one day may virtually control—what we put on our tables. Many more products have been developed or are in the pipeline, including seeds for sugar beets and alfalfa. agenda, Monsanto is buying up conventional-seed companies. Another reason for their attraction is convenience.
At least with Microsoft the buyer of a program can use it over and over again.
But farmers who buy Monsanto’s seeds can’t even do that. Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision, turned seeds into widgets, laying the groundwork for a handful of corporations to begin taking control of the world’s food supply.
For centuries—millennia—farmers have saved seeds from season to season: they planted in the spring, harvested in the fall, then reclaimed and cleaned the seeds over the winter for re-planting the next spring. seeds that would resist its own herbicide, Roundup, offering farmers a convenient way to spray fields with weed killer without affecting crops. For nearly all of its history the United States Patent and Trademark Office had refused to grant patents on seeds, viewing them as life-forms with too many variables to be patented. In its decision, the court extended patent law to cover “a live human-made microorganism.” In this case, the organism wasn’t even a seed.
Monsanto has turned this ancient practice on its head. “It’s not like describing a widget,” says Joseph Mendelson III, the legal director of the Center for Food Safety, which has tracked Monsanto’s activities in rural America for years. Rather, it was a bacterium developed by a General Electric scientist to clean up oil spills.
But the precedent was set, and Monsanto took advantage of it. Farmers who buy Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready seeds are required to sign an agreement promising not to save the seed produced after each harvest for re-planting, or to sell the seed to other farmers.