DuPont Sends Former Cops to Enforce Seed Patents
Posted by Xeno on November 30, 2012
image: A fungus, Fusariaum Virguliforme is the cause of Sudden Death Syndrome, a nightmare confronting growers across the Midwest in 2010. The disease starts in the roots and sends a toxin to the leaves that kills the plant. Foliar fungicides are useless against the toxin.
DuPont Co. (DD), the world’s second- biggest seed company, is sending dozens of former police officers across North America to prevent a practice generations of farmers once took for granted.
The provider of the best-selling genetically modified soybean seed is looking for evidence of farmers illegally saving them from harvests for replanting next season, which is not allowed under sales contracts. The Wilmington, Delaware-based company is inspecting Canadian fields and will begin in the U.S. next year, said Randy Schlatter, a DuPont senior manager.
DuPont is protecting its sales of Roundup Ready soybeans, so called because they tolerate being sprayed by Monsanto Co. (MON)’s Roundup herbicide. For years enforcement was done by Monsanto, which created Roundup Ready and dominates the $13.3 billion biotech seed industry, though it’s moving on to a new line of seeds now that patents are expiring. That leaves DuPont to play the bad guy, enforcing alternative patents so cheaper “illegal beans” don’t get planted. …
Monsanto controls about 28 percent of the soybean market in the U.S., the largest producer and exporter last year, while Dupont has about 36 percent. The weed-killer tolerant seeds and related licenses generated $1.77 billion in sales for Monsanto in the year through August, 13 percent of the company’s total. DuPont had $1.37 billion in soybean revenue last year, 3.6 percent of total sales, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The grain is used to make animal feed, cooking oil, tofu and biofuels, and it’s the biggest crop after corn in the U.S.
DuPont dropped 0.5 percent to $43.24 at the close in New York. It has declined 5.6 percent this year, the fifth-worst performer of 31 companies in the S&P 500 Materials Index. (S5MATR) Monsanto has gained 30 percent, the sixth-biggest gain in the index.
Attacks on the modified food industry aren’t new. Farmers criticized Monsanto in the 2008 Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” for contracts that keep them from saving seeds. The St. Louis-based company has sued 145 U.S. farmers for saving Roundup Ready soybeans since 1997, winning all 11 cases that went to trial, said Kelli Powers, a Monsanto spokeswoman. The U.S. Supreme Court last month agreed to consider the legality of such planting restrictions. …
DuPont currently markets Roundup Ready soybeans under license from Monsanto, which is shifting to a newer version of the crop along with most of the rest of the industry. The new seeds produced an average of 4.5 bushels an acre more than the originals this year, Monsanto said today in a statement. Some farmers were anticipating a return to low-cost seed after patents on the original beans expire, Benbrook said.
Monsanto Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant raised such a prospect in 2010 when he said that growers could replant Roundup Ready soybeans after the patents lapse.
“Our challenge is to get customers to understand the fact that strong intellectual property protection is a benefit that ends up at the customer level,” Schlatter, who works for DuPont’s intellectual property program office, said by phone. His company holds more than 225 soybean patents, he said.
“If we can’t make a profit, we can’t invest and we can’t bring out new products.”…
Monsanto widely licenses its technology, getting the two versions of Roundup Ready soybeans into 82 percent of the global crop last year and 94 percent in the U.S. Patents on original Roundup Ready beans expired in Canada last year and they expire in the U.S. in late 2014.
Soybeans are easier for farmers to replicate than other hybrid crops such as corn because second-generation beans don’t lose vigor, tempting farmers to hold onto seeds.
The Supreme Court on Oct. 5 agreed to review a federal appeals court decision that Vernon Hugh Bowman, a farmer, infringed Monsanto’s patents when he purchased and planted Roundup Ready soybeans from a grain elevator to save money. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, rejected Bowman’s contention that Monsanto had “exhausted” its patent rights by the time he bought the seed. …
… Many farmers have begun to use Roundup Ready crops. A recent news article (link) suggests that farmers have becoming so reliant on Roundup as a herbicide that they may be weakening Roundup’s ability to control weeds. Monsanto, manufacturer of Roundup, funded the study. Few farmers consider resistance an issue until it affects them directly. Farmers are now being encouraged to use multiple herbicides. It is unclear how this will impact the use of Roundup Ready crops, as these crops are only resistant to Roundup.
Farmers have found themselves stuck between Monsanto and a hard place. It has become increasingly difficult for farmers to grow non-genetically engineered crops, as contamination has become a big issue. …
Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is a publicly traded American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and of the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets under the Roundup brand. Founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny, by the 1940s it was a major producer of plastics, including polystyrene and synthetic fibers. Notable achievements by Monsanto and its scientists as a chemical company included breakthrough research on catalytic asymmetric hydrogenation and being the first company to mass-produce light emitting diodes (LEDs). The company also manufactured controversial products such as the insecticide DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, and recombinant bovine somatotropin. Monsanto was among the first to genetically modify a plant cell, along with three academic teams, announced in 1983, and was among the first to conduct field trials of genetically modified crops, which it did in 1987. It remained one of the top 10 U.S. chemical companies until it divested most of its chemical businesses between 1997 and 2002, through a process of mergers and spin-offs that focused the company on biotechnology.
Monsanto was a pioneer in applying the biotechnology industry business model, developed by Genentech and other biotech drug companies in the late 1970s in California, to agriculture. In this business model, companies invest heavily in research and develop and recoup the expenses through the use and enforcement of biological patents. Monsanto’s application of this model to agriculture, along with a growing movement to create a global, uniform system of plant breeders’ rights in the 1980s, came into direct conflict with customary practices of farmers to save, reuse, share and develop plant varieties. Its seed patenting model has also been criticized as biopiracy and a threat to biodiversity. Monsanto’s role in these changes in agriculture (which include its litigation and its seed commercialization practices), its current and former agbiotech products, its lobbying of government agencies, and its history as a chemical company, have made Monsanto controversial.
What to take home: No soy products. Even non-GMO soy gets contaminated. I believe that Monsanto is killing people (slowly) for huge profits, but by going for the short term cash, they are destroying the future. The weeds adapt, crops won’t produce, animals fed GMO plants age prematurely and humans who eat pesticide filled GMO crops are “losing vigor” just like the GMO plants, because Roundup is causing massive nutrient deficiencies in soil and plants. Because RoundUp traps minerals and keeps plants from using them, the plants can no longer fight disease, so the GMO crops are weak, as are the animals who eat them.