Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Anna Lekas Miller: Occupy vs. Monsanto -- Activists, Farmers Fight the Corporation They Fear Will Take Over All America's Crops

Occupy vs. Monsanto: Activists, Farmers Fight the Corporation They Fear Will Take Over All America's Crops
by Anna Lekas Miller

Occupy comes out to support a lawsuit that hopes to turn the tables on corporate farming behemoth Monsanto.

Monsanto, if you will, is the 1 percent of Big Agriculture--the scourge of small farmers everywhere. But now those farmers are fighting back, backed by activists from Occupy Wall Street.

First, some history. In 1982, Monsanto scientists were the first to genetically modify a plant cell. Three years later, the US Patent Office ruled that plants were a patentable subject matter.

By 1985, Monsanto had already become a corporate giant by creating RoundUp, the most popular herbicide in the world. Now that it had the legal protection of seed patents in addition to the biotechnology to genetically manipulate its seeds, Monsanto scientists engineered a specific brand of Monsanto seeds that were RoundUp-resistant—unlike organic, natural seeds, these seeds are sterile and have to be re-planted each year, ensuring that customers return year after year to replenish their supply.

In order to achieve a monopoly over the market, and keep farmers from saving their own seed as they have done for centuries, Monsanto begin to purchase as many seeds as possible—spending $8 billion and acquiring over 20 seed companies over the past decade alone. Today, Monsanto controls 93 percent of soybean crops, 86 percent of corn crops, 93 percent of cotton crops, and 93 percent of canola seed crops in the United States alone.

Monsanto is far from finished. To continue its corporate monopoly and push more seeds off the market, Monsanto specifically targets organic farmers, often testing their crops without permission. If the crops are resistant to RoundUp, Monsanto’s signature pesticide, Monsanto sues the farmer for patent infringement.

In many instances, pollen from a neighboring farm growing Monsanto’s genetically modified crops can migrate to an organic farm, contaminating its crops. In addition to losing these crops and losing important organic buyers due to this genetic trespass, many organic farmers face undeserved, crippling lawsuits from Monsanto that force them into debt, bankruptcy, and often out of business entirely.

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