Barbara Peterson

Farm Wars

More About: Food

Response to Brad Mitchell’s (Monsanto’s Director of Public Affairs) Defense of Company Policy

This morning I opened my e-mail to find a request from an OpEdNews Editor to please respond to the following post submitted by Brad Mitchell, Monsanto’s Director of Public Affairs. What follows is his post, and my response.

 

Monsanto and Seed Cleaners

By Brad Mitchell

 

Recently there has been a minor buzz in the blogosphere about seed cleaners. The allegations are seed cleaners are being targeted by Monsanto, reportedly because we are trying to “remove access to normal, open pollinated seeds”–presumably so farmers will be forced to buy our patented, biotech seeds. As is often the situation, the truth is far less dramatic than fiction–and this is especially true in this case.

 

First, growers have been moving away from open-pollinated seeds to hybrids for decades. Hybrids often provide distinct advantages, most notably yield. But, you generally can’t save seed from most hybrids because the resulting offspring are genetically inconsistent, and will not offer the same benefits as the parent seed.

 

Second, intellectual property protection for seed and plant material is neither new nor unique to either biotech or Monsanto. In most developed countries plant breeders have had legal protection from the unauthorized reproduction of their innovations for decades. Without this protection, there would be little incentive for breeders to invest time and money into developing new plant varieties. In the U.S., intellectual property protection for plant materials exists in both patent law and under the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA). Google the terms “raspberry” and “patented” and you will get a sense of how commonplace patent protection is in plant breeding. You should also note that there are no commercially-approved genetically-modified (GM) raspberries (or any GM raspberries of which I am aware).

 

Third, Monsanto isn’t the only company or group that protects its intellectual property. The Kansas Wheat Alliance recently took action against a number of farmers who violated the PVPA. North Carolina State University Extension Service has published an excellent bulletin for growers and seed cleaners–informing them of laws and regulations governing saving, cleaning and planting protected varieties of wheat. Wheat, like raspberries, is not GM.

 

Finally, Monsanto is not trying to remove open pollinated/unpatented seeds from the market. We have nothing against seed cleaners. The vast majority of seed cleaners are law-abiding business people who run legitimate operations that serve the needs of the agricultural community–just like Monsanto. We have taken exception to, and action against, seed cleaners who have knowingly participated in infringing on Monsanto patents. However, stating that Monsanto is out to get all seed cleaners is like saying all seed cleaners violate patent laws and the PVPA. It simply isn’t true.

Posted by Brad

Filed in Monsanto Blog

 

 

My response:

 

Seed cleaners are used to clean seeds, nothing more. They remove the lighter material, and get rid of dirt and such. The fact that Monsanto even makes an issue of seed cleaning is proof of the company's invasive tactics. In the clip below, how do you make the jump from the issue of seed cleaning to farmers moving away from saving seeds? And, if these seeds that Monsanto is producing cannot bear fruit in the second generation, what is the point in even saving them, and/or coming after those that do?

 

Recently there has been a minor buzz in the blogosphere about seed cleaners. The allegations are seed cleaners are being targeted by Monsanto, reportedly because we are trying to “remove access to normal, open pollinated seeds”–presumably so farmers will be forced to buy our patented, biotech seeds. As is often the situation, the truth is far less dramatic than fiction–and this is especially true in this case.

 

First, growers have been moving away from open-pollinated seeds to hybrids for decades. Hybrids often provide distinct advantages, most notably yield. But, you generally can’t save seed from most hybrids because the resulting offspring are genetically inconsistent, and will not offer the same benefits as the parent seed.

 

The issue of Monsanto not wanting to "remove open pollinated/unpatented seeds from the market" is a moot point. With open-pollination, that cannot be controlled if crops are grown in the open and not in an enclosed space, contamination of surrounding crops by GMO will most definitely occur. The invasive species has the unlimited potential to take over and destroy heritage seeds on a global scale.

 

This brings us to another issue. Do you want to tell us about Traitor seed technology, Brad? Traitor seeds do bear fruit, and there is something about them that people should know. But you know, don't you, Brad.

 

GENETIC MUTILATION: An especially disturbing feature of some of the new patents profiled in RAFI’s report is the deliberate disabling of natural plant functions that help to fight disease. Swiss biotech giant Novartis is most advanced in this aspect of Traitor technology. Novartis blandly refers to it as “inactivation of endogenous regulation” so that “genes which are natively regulated can be regulated exclusively by the application to the plant of a chemical regulator.”

 

Among the genes which Novartis can control in this manner are patented SAR (systemic acquired resistance) genes which are critical to plant’s ability to fight off infections from many viruses and bacteria. Thus, Novartis has patented techniques to create plants with natural healthy functions turned off. “The only way to turn them back on and fix these ‘damaged goods’ ” says RAFI’s Edward Hammond, “is, well, you guessed it, the application of a proprietary chemical.” 

Organic Consumers Association 1999

 

So, just by its actions, Monsanto is actively destroying the competition, which is the local farmer. The company spreads its pollution to surrounding crops, then sues farmers who save supposedly sterile Monsanto seeds for growing crops with them that Monsanto says should not even grow to begin with. See the following article:

 

‘Alien’ genes escape into wild corn  New ScientistFebruary 21, 2009  NOW it’s official: genes from genetically modified corn have escaped into wild varieties in rural Mexico. A new study resolves a long-running controversy over the spread of GM genes and suggests that detecting such escapes may be tougher than previously thought.

READ MORE…

 

What gives any company or individual the right to openly pollute and contaminate its neighbor's crops, then sue for patent infringement for the use of its contamination? That is like me throwing my garbage in my neighbor's yard, and then taking him to court because those scraps fell in his garden and were broken down into fertilizer. That's just crazy, immoral, and unacceptable.

 

So, Brad. We have reached a point where I call into question the very basis of your arguments. You are not interested in the well being of the people that Monsanto deals with, because if you were, you would see that GM technology is not only harmful to the environment, but harmful to human life itself. I do not believe for one minute that you are so ignorant of the facts that you really believe you are doing good. In fact, I ran across the following article that clearly backs up this allegation. By the way, intentional ignorance is no excuse:

 

Monsanto Whistleblower Says Genetically Engineered Crops May Cause Disease

 

Your PR spin does not cut it with me, Brad. Nor does it cut it with the millions of people your company has harmed, and will continue to harm, all in the public relations ploy of "solving world hunger" when the reality is, you create the world hunger you are proposing to solve.

 

Barbara H. Peterson

 

 

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