Monsanto Behind Legislation That Would Police Rural Communities and Intimidate Seed-Saving Farmers
Monsanto Investing News web page.
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
7 March 1999
*** Monsanto is Behind Anti-Farmer Legislation to Regulate ***
Open-Pollinated Seed Cleaners
*** Ohio Bill Discriminates Against Seed-Saving Farmers ***
A bill has been introduced in the Ohio state legislature (United
States) that would require registration and state-level regulation of
anyone who cleans or conditions self-pollinated seed. According to the
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), the proposed
legislation is part of Monsanto's aggressive corporate strategy to
police rural communities and intimidate seed-saving farmers.
"The proposed legislation is part of a dangerous trend to eliminate or
restrict the right of farmers to save and exchange seed - all in the
name of increasing seed industry profits" explains Hope Shand, Research
Director of RAFI. "We weren't surprised to learn that Monsanto is
behind the bill, because the company is already waging a ferocious
campaign against seed-saving farmers and it's actively developing the
controversial suicide seeds - or Terminator technology," said Shand.
Terminator is a technique for genetically altering a plant so that the
seeds it produces are sterile.
According to the Ohio Seed Improvement Association, the proposal to
amend Ohio's seed law originated with agribusiness giant Monsanto last
year. Monsanto is the world's largest seller of genetically modified
seed. Under US patent law it is illegal for farmers to save patented
seed. To enforce its exclusive monopoly, Monsanto has aggressively
prosecuted farmers for what the company calls "seed piracy." But seed
saving is illegal only if the farmer is saving or re-using patented
seed. Farmers who grow soybeans and wheat, for example, typically save
seed from their harvest to re-plant the following year. An estimated
25% of North American soybean seed is farm-saved seed.
Monsanto has waged an aggressive, Draconian campaign against
seed-saving farmers in North America. The company has hired Pinkerton
investigators to root-out seed-saving farmers and it is using radio ads
and telephone "tiplines" in farming communities to identify and
intimidate farmers who might save or re-use the company's patented
seed. Under Monsanto's gene licensing agreement, the company reserves
the right to come onto the farmer's land and take seed samples to
insure that the farmer is not violating patent law.
"It appears that Monsanto's newest strategy is to shift the expense and
burden of policing rural communities to the seed cleaners and state
governments. If the bill becomes law, Monsanto's "gene police" will
ultimately become state regulators who are working on behalf of
Monsanto," explains Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI.
"The Ohio legislation is unfair to farmers because it places an
onerous regulatory burden on all seed-saving farmers and seed cleaners
- not just farmers who buy Monsanto's patented seed," explains Shand.
If the bill becomes law, it would require seed cleaners to keep
detailed records on every seed cleaning transaction, to document the
name of the farmer, seed variety names and whether or not the seed is
protected by patents or breeders' rights. "In essence, the bill
discriminates against farmers who are lawfully saving and re-planting
open-pollinated seed varieties," asserts RAFI's Shand.
Ohio farmer and custom seed cleaner Roger Peters opposes the proposed
bill to regulate open-pollinated seed cleaners. "Why should any farmer
be forced to keep records on law-abiding farmers who clean their own
seed?" asks Peters. "And why should public tax dollars be used to
protect the patents of private seed companies like Monsanto?" questions
"State-level seed laws are supposed to protect farmers, not penalize
them," asserts Sean McGovern, Executive Administrator of the Ohio
Ecological Food and Farmers Association, a Columbus, Ohio-based
organization that promotes sustainable agriculture and certifies
organic farmers. "I can't imagine any use for this bill accept to
enforce Monsanto's patents," concludes McGovern.
Background information on HB 85, introduced in the Ohio State
Legislature on January 28, 1999.
Specifically, H.B. 85, amendments to the Ohio Seed Law would:
Symbol Require all seed
cleaners to register as a seed cleaner or conditioner. (The bill states
that the Director of Agriculture will determine the minimum quantity of
self-pollinated seed that when cleaned or conditioned would require the
person to become registered.)
Symbol Require the seed
cleaner to keep records on every farmer and seed cleaning/conditioning
transaction. The seed cleaner would be required to keep all records for
a minimum of five years and make the records available to the State
Director of Agriculture on request.
Symbol The seed cleaner would
be required to document the following information:
- The commonly accepted name and brand or variety being cleaned;
- A declaration of any patent, or plant variety protection
certificate, issued for the seed being cleaned or conditioned;
- The name, address, telephone number of the farmer who submitted the
seed to be cleaned or conditioned; the amount of seed cleaned or
conditioned; and an indemnification statement signed by the person who
submitted the seed for cleaning:
"The undersigned promises to reimburse or indemnify the seed cleaner or
conditioner for any liability damages that the seed cleaner or
conditioner may incur for any violation of a patent or a certificate
issued under the Plant Variety Protection Act resulting from cleaning
or conditioning the undersigned's seed, including all damages,
liability payments, costs, and attorney's fees arising in connection
with the violation."
Symbol The seed cleaner or
conditioner is required to retain a sample of each type and variety or
brand of seed cleaned or conditioned for at least 18 months.
Symbol The Director of
Agriculture may inspect all records, documents and samples required to
be kept by the seed cleaner /conditioner to determine if he/she is in
compliance with the law. If the Director suspects that a registered
seed cleaner or conditioner has violated or is violating a provision -
the director shall conduct a hearing, and may suspend, revoke, or
refuse to renew the person's registration.
For more information, contact:
Hope Shand, Rural Advancement Foundation International
Tel: 717 337-6482
Pat Mooney, Rural Advancement Foundation
Tel: 204 453-5259
Roger L. Peters, Farmer
Oak Harbor, Ohio
Tel: 419 898-1210
RAFI (The Rural Advancement Foundation International) is an
international civil society organization head-quartered in Canada.
RAFI is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of
biodiversity, and to the socially responsible development of
technologies useful to rural societies. RAFI is concerned about the
loss of agricultural biodiversity, and the impact of intellectual
property on farmers and food security.