muses of the moment

December 14, 2009

Evil seed?

Filed under: Inflation, Odds 'n ends — totallygroovygirlfriday @ 9:36 am

Monsanto is getting bad press again. How can Monsanto have control over 90% of the world’s GM (genetically modified) seeds and not be in violation of anti-trust laws? Even Microsoft has Mac.

In my opinion, the jury is still out on GM seeds. I am not attacking Monsanto in the least, but concerned about the GM seed process and use. But since Monsanto owns the patents on all global GM seed technology, it will seem as if I am questioning the company and not the science behind it. There are so many unknowns with genetics (of any kind). The seeds may live in a vacuum at the Patent Office, but they do not in the field.

Ecosystems have a nasty tendency of being…..dynamic, not linear.

Think food security.

Click here for the whole story from AP. (How strange, it seems the link has “disappeared” a mere 18 hours after being published. Good thing I printed it last night for future reference. I wonder if groovygirl’s post will “disappear”, too? I don’t see why, as groovygirl wants her readers to make informed decisions and has listed links both pro and con.)

Try this link.

Snippet from the AP article:

“We now believe that Monsanto has control over as much as 90 percent of (seed genetics). This level of control is almost unbelievable,” said Neil Harl, agricultural economist at Iowa State University who has studied the seed industry for decades. “The upshot of that is that it’s tightening Monsanto’s control, and makes it possible for them to increase their prices long-term. And we’ve seen this happening the last five years, and the end is not in sight.”

At issue is how much power one company can have over seeds, the foundation of the world’s food supply. Without stiff competition, Monsanto could raise its seed prices at will, which in turn could raise the cost of everything from animal feed to wheat bread and cookies.

The price of seeds is already rising. Monsanto increased some corn seed prices last year by 25 percent, with an additional 7 percent hike planned for corn seeds in 2010. Monsanto brand soybean seeds climbed 28 percent last year and will be flat or up 6 percent in 2010, said company spokeswoman Kelli Powers.

Monsanto’s broad use of licensing agreements has made its biotech traits among the most widely and rapidly adopted technologies in farming history. These days, when farmers buy bags of seed with obscure brand names like AgVenture or M-Pride Genetics, they are paying for Monsanto’s licensed products.

The Monsanto contracts reviewed by the AP prohibit seed companies from discussing terms, and Monsanto has the right to cancel deals and wipe out the inventory of a business if the confidentiality clauses are violated.

Thomas Terral, chief executive officer of Terral Seed in Louisiana, said he recently rejected a Monsanto contract because it put too many restrictions on his business. But Terral refused to provide the unsigned contract to AP or even discuss its contents because he was afraid Monsanto would retaliate and cancel the rest of his agreements.

“I would be so tied up in what I was able to do that basically I would have no value to anybody else,” he said. “The only person I would have value to is Monsanto, and I would continue to pay them millions in fees.”

Monsanto was only a niche player in the seed business just 12 years ago. It rose to the top thanks to innovation by its scientists and aggressive use of patent law by its attorneys.

First came the science, when Monsanto in 1996 introduced the world’s first commercial strain of genetically engineered soybeans. The Roundup Ready plants were resistant to the herbicide, allowing farmers to spray Roundup whenever they wanted rather than wait until the soybeans had grown enough to withstand the chemical.

Click here for Monsanto’s response to the previous AP article.

Click here for another opinion from SourceWatch.

And here.

Monsanto’s response to India farmers deaths.

Monsanto has patented seeds because the US government said seeds, yes I said seeds, could be patented in the 1990’s with one gene modified. Mistake number one on the slippery slope to world hunger (in groovygirl’s humble opinion).

groovygirl says: Patenting food can never end well.

Here is another Monsanto article that helps explain their business model in India.

A snippet:

Does the hyper competition in Indian seed market pressure margins?

We believe competition increases the value everyone brings to farmers. Our revenue will come from new products (50%), sales volume (40%), and price increases (10%). Monsanto is criticised as a monopoly over industrial mono-crop agriculture across the planet. The basis of our business model is that we believe increasing competition increases farmer choice and the BT cotton model is an excellent example of how dozens of companies are competing together using our technology.

This means that Monsanto gets paid no matter who sells their technology. They get paid for all GM seeds, no matter who the producer, seller, or farming country is.

Moreover, BT cotton competes against free seeds available from the government. If the farmer still chooses us, we must be delivering significant value. Our motto is appropriately priced technology that is broadly available.

Any concerns regarding India’s seed regulatory policy?

Our only concern is state government regulation of cotton seed pricing. We fear this may spill to other crops and I don’t feel very good about that. Creating a new seed technology is an 8-10 year, $100-200 million process.

That is a lot of R&D money to get back. Is the yield on GM seeds/Round-upReady really that much better to justify this kind of money? At what price will the yield not be worth it? Has anyone calculated a breaking point?

During this time, there is certainty of investment but uncertainty of technological risk. If we are also made to bear uncertainty of pricing it gives me pause. If we generate value, we need reasonable assurance we will be able to charge a fair value at the end of this period.

Keep an eye on this. It could get swept under the rug, but it is very important for the future of food security and the availability to have non-GM seeds planted in the fields.

Once again, groovygirl has nothing against Monsanto, are they not just an American company trying to serve their investors? Buying up other companies is just what other industries are doing, it’s called acquisitions. Can we attack them just because they want to make a lot of money? I shutter at the very thought…………just questioning the ultimate value of GM seeds, and especially “termination” seeds.

And another link from the USDA arm of government.

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