Read the case. He knowingly planted Roundup Ready plants across his whole field. Alternatively, find a case for what you say happened happening before you assume it to be true.
It only took one Google search to find a case describing exactly what wheaties described: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18563_162-4048288.html
The Runyons say they signed no agreements, and if they were contaminated with the genetically modified seed, it blew over from a neighboring farm.
"Pollination occurs, wind drift occurs. There's just no way to keep their products from landing in our fields," David said.
"What Monsanto is doing across the country is often, and according to farmers, trespassing even, on their land, examining their crops and trying to find some of their patented crops," said Andrew Kimbrell, with the Center For Food Safety. "And if they do, they sue those farmers for their entire crop."
In fact, in Feb. 2005 the Runyons received a letter from Monsanto, citing "an agreement" with the Indiana Department of Agriculture giving it the right to come on their land and test for seed contamination.
Only one problem: The Indiana Department of Agriculture didn't exist until two months after that letter was sent. What does that say to you?
The way Roundup works is, the seeds confer resistance in crops to an herbicide. The herbicide is easily obtainable and cheap; the only thing interesting about it is that if you plant special Roundup-ready seeds, you can easily use it to kill weeds without killing crops.
the runyons claim that the seeds got there accidentally, and imply that they had no knowledge of the seeds' origins. given that they also sprayed Roundup on their crops, the claim just makes no sense. if your crops are not "Roundup-ready", Roundup will kill your crops along with the weeds.
if it was really the wind that blew in some seeds, then they never would have sprayed Roundup on their crop.
The farmer's argument was that they didn't sow those seeds deliberately, and that they should therefore be allowed to take advantage of the Roundup-ready properties of the field without paying licensing fees.
I don't have a strong opinion about the validity of that argument, except to note that Monsanto is in this case in a bind very similar to that of IP rightsholders. Seeds can be propagated like bits; in theory, that propagation occurs without any cost to Monsanto. But in practice, widespread unauthorized copying destroys the Monsanto business model.
The possibility of unintended propagation of Monsanto seeds probably makes them less sympathetic than IP rightsholders; nobody accidentally pirates a full-length movie.
i think you're implying that this farmer happened upon an entire field of crops that he did not plant, then determined that this field was seeded using roundup-ready seeds, and then sprayed roundup on that field.
do you really think that the entire field was planted by the wind? do you think that this guy left his fields fallow and then the wind just seeded the entire thing? or that he planted his own seeds, but then the wind blew in enough seeds to displace enough of his crop that he could spray it with roundup and still have enough crop left for a good yield?
In fact, if the genes get out there in the wild, and Monsanto de facto forbids people from discovering this fact, it isn't inconceivable that the genes could spread far and wide without anyone actually noticing until much later.
Also if theses seeds blow all over the place contaminating everything then all monsanto would have to do is stand on the side of the road and wait for a seed to blow over. No need to trespass.
Link to court documents not Monsanto PR or GMO protestor PR. What you find in court is a lot different than what GMO protestors say and is actually a lot closer to what Monsanto says IMHO. But again, ignore the Monsanto PR and just look to the court docs which contain facts as determined by a judge and not hearsay.
Monsanto attempted to sue, then dropped its case against the Runyons. Given Monsanto's otherwise litigious history, and the damage that would be done to the company if they were to lose a case like this in court, the evidence points in favor of the farmer.
Statements like "I believe (any case) does not exist" and "this is just someone who has been in a bunch of movies" show bias, and tell me that you're unlikely to accept anything short of a full and frank confession from Monsanto that they have aggressively sued innocent farmers.
What do you call a company that pursues cases like the one cited in the CBS News article about Mo Parr?
74-year-old Mo Parr is a seed cleaner; he is hired by farmers to separate debris from the seed to be replanted. Monsanto sued him claiming he was "aiding and abetting" farmers, helping them to violate the patent.
"There's no way that I could be held responsible," Parr said. "There's no way that I could look at a soy bean and tell you if it's Round-up Ready."
The company subpoenaed Parr's bank records, without his knowledge, and found his customers. After receiving calls from Monsanto, some of them stopped talking to him.
"It really broke my heart," Parr said. "You know, I could hardly hold a cup of coffee that morning,"
I won't make any further arguments about this, because I'm not trying to change your mind if its already made up.
I'm not trying to argue over this and I certainly won't try to change your mind, but if you haven't already seen it, this 30 year long study is an interesting read and suggests that organic farming has many benefits over conventional farming and GM crops. I totally understand that the Rodale Institute has an interest in proving this to be the case, but I'd argue that the pro-GM studies are also performed by groups and companies that have an interest in proving their results too. In any case, I'm only trying to offer information on a potential counter-view, not start an argument neither of us could win anyway. :)
look, you don't understand what this seed cleaner was doing. monsanto does not go around suing every seed cleaner in the midwest just because they could be cleaning roundup ready seeds. they sued moe parr, and they did so because he told other farmers that it was legal for them to clean their roundup ready seeds (which it is not).
basically, by seed cleaning, you don't have to buy more roundup ready seeds.
this is the court injunction against Moe Parr's seed cleaning activities: http://www.fr.com/files/uploads/publications/DSU-Medical-Cor...
i hope your mind isn't already made up
I would like to see a case where Monsanto was sued for seed contamination and the farmer won the case.
EDIT: Sorry, read that as "where Monsanto sued and won the case" I expect you won't find many cases where Monsanto was sued and lost, since they would be extremely inclined to settle and it would be hard for a farmer to turn down the sort of money that Monsanto has available to it.
These are not two equally equipped sides engaging in a fair judicial process to settle a contract dispute, pretending that it is such a circumstance is overwhelmingly unfair to the farmers involved.
I personally believe that Monsanto is probably correct in most of their accusations against farmers but the imbalance of power that exists between the two parties means that Monsanto does have something of a free hand to do as it likes regardless of whether it is in the right or not. I am not from the United States but given what I know of the structure of the business down there if you can't use any of their products you will have a lot of difficulty continuing to earn a livelihood as a conventional farmer.
(If you wanna debate whether the law should be different then that's another argument.)
I was 5 years old.
Obvious conflict. Sorry for not disclosing.
I have sympathy for geneticists who have to deal with the anti-GM knee jerk reactionaries, but Monsanto tramples on constitutional rights of small farmers who don't have the legal resources to defend themselves. The fact that many of these farmers are guilty of stealing IP doesn't change this fact.
A quote from the Canadian Supreme Court:
"Mr. Schmeiser complained that the original plants came onto his land without his intervention. However, he did not at all explain why he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land; why he then harvested the plants and segregated the seeds, saved them, and kept them for seed; why he planted them; and why, through his husbandry, he ended up with 1,030 acres of Roundup Ready canola which would have cost him $15,000."
Who cares what Schmeiser did to the plants GROWING ON HIS OWN LAND? Why must he explain his reasons to anyone for dealing with a predatory invader?
Let's say you write a virus that uses patented technology to remove malware, defragment the drives, reorganize the registry and whatever else a Windows machine needs to run well these days. It infects some of my company's computers, and I notice that they're running well. I direct the IT department to wipe all machines that aren't running well, and leave the ones that are alone.
Can you now sue me for royalties?
Honey bees or in general bees are used by nature for cross pollination. If bees are spreading your technology then really its not the farmer that you can blame here. Those bees can fly anywhere. This can spread to a jungle and suddenly you might be faced with a scenario of this thing having spread beyond uncontrollable means. Whom will you sue then?
If i'm a good farmer, wouldn't i be trying to isolate the best crops from my fields? And isn't there a high chance that the best ones were the genetically modified ones?
I think if they are going to claim IP rights over the natural reproductive system of these plants, that they should be able to be sued for massive damages when they knowingly "pollute" other people's crops with their genes. Property rights goes in both directions. Fine, it's your property -- why are you polluting all of my crops?
Analogy: someone accidentally drops a backpack containing DVDs in my front yard. Am I now licensed to make and sell copies of the content on those DVDs?
Anyway, your argument is with the Canadian Supreme Court, not with Monsanto.
This is more like somebody "accidentally" setting up a DVD pressing factory on your property. You quietly let the factory owner continue pressing DVDs (using your electricity no less) and sell the DVDs yourself when they're ready. It's all on your property, the factory owner is trespassing and I don't see how the factory owner can claim a right to the pressed DVDs. (Don't build automated self-reproducing things that you want to claim patents on, even when they're stealing other people's resources.)
A plane crashes on your land. You reverse-engineer the jet engine and start selling your own jet engines.
How about this (with thanks to another HNer):
You patent a specially engineered cow to taste good with your specially engineered steak sauce. One day your specially engineered steers jump my fence and rape my cows. Upon realizing this, I begin buying your special steak sauce from you and eating my new cows with it.
When your analogy is not about "patent law pertaining to genetic material", you wash out the absurdity.
Also I believe it could be argued that a specially engineered bull would rise to the level of a "dangerous animal" (such as keeping an elephant or a lion) for purposes of trespass and liability. The owner of a genetically engineered, patent-encumbered, bull would know and have prior knowledge about the unique danger involved in having such an animal escape and be held especially liable.
It only takes a few minutes to find out the details of the case. He didn't just accidentally get some Monsanto seeds mixed in with his own -- instead, he noticed some Roundup-resistant plants growing on his land, collected seeds from them, planted them in a test field, and then separated the Roundup-resistant from the non-Roundup-resistant strains by... well, spraying 'em with Roundup. In other words, he went to some effort to deliberately separate and reproduce the specific Roundup-resistant strain which happened to wind up on his land.
The reason they are after all the record on page 2 of the article is they are taking anyone who had seed cleaning done - even if they are not their customers. Its real easy to prove their seed mixed since even Monsanto admits that pollen-flow is inevitable (Monsanto's 2005 Technology Agreement).
Google Tom Wiley who is a ND farmer. He has some interesting experiences in the contamination area.
This "story" is part of a bigger conversation going on. The outcome of which is very much up in the air.
The conversation we're having is "Should it be allowed for individuals, or companies, to patent genetic sequences?"
On the 'for' side we have people like Monsanto who make the claim they invest billions of dollars in creating 'products' that would not occur naturally in a reasonable amount of time, and having made that investment they deserve the limited monopoly granted by the patent system. We also have testing companies who have invested billions in diagnostic tests to identify diseases which are tied to certain genes and they too feel it is right and proper to give them protection so that they might re-coup those costs. In both their cases their argument is that it is for the greater good of the society that these temporary monopolies are granted, to encourage the investment needed to come up with these inventions which will permanently be a benefit going forward.
We also have groups of people who are arguing that this is an abuse of the patent monopoly because the processes are not 'man made' they are simply natural processes that have been tuned by man to create a desired result. Generally folks recognize the benefit, but they don't wish to pay the fees.
Consistently, the courts have sided with the folks who did the investment because, as the Canadian supreme court pointed out, the people see the benefit too so the argument that its good for society is a well supported.
The monkey wrench of course is the question of innovation flexibility. In both the patent and copyright systems there is an implied flexibility rule, which is that if "you" the non-inventor/creator don't like it, you are free to create your own version with your own resources. So if you don't like the patent on the automobile you are free to construct your own vehicle that has the same function of transportation, but doesn't infringe on the claims. This breaks down when their is not flexibility and that was very clearly elucidated by Judge Alsup in the Oracle vs Google case where he held that the APIs, which were constrained to be written in a specific way (no flexibility), could not be copyrighted, because doing so was contrary to copyright law, where he wrote "copyright law does not confer ownership over any and all ways to implement a function or specification." And there is a similar argument to be made against genetic patents. One cannot simply create 'another' way to make plants resistant to a particular herbicide, because that particular herbicide attacks particular plant functions which are expressed by specific genes. So there is no 'wiggle' room around other people wanting to create the same capability without infringing the patent.
I expect it is this questions, "What are the considerations of the economic good or harm in locking out others from using a particular 'law of nature or natural process'?" Clearly there is an economic good in being able to farm efficiently, there is a harm in that even if you were a grade a geneticist you couldn't get around using the same genes Monsanto did so there is no avenue to compete. There are only alternatives, like weeding the old fashioned way.
If you're wondering, farmers have one of the strongest voices in our government. This is because there are a lot of states that have farmers in them (so there are a lot of representatives from farm districts). They have literally changed the course of rivers to take water from urban users and water their fields, they have been paid not to plant crops, their crop prices have been subsidized to insure they make a living, and their excess product has been bought up with the tax payer's money and distributed for free. So it isn't like Monsanto is the gorilla here.
I don't think the original article added a lot to the conversation sadly. I would love to see additional analysis and alternatives being discussed.
I don't think that's true, immediately I'm thinking of enzymes that could cleave the herbicide, or making plants resistant to a different herbicide.
Monsanto is primarily a maker of herbicides not GM crops, GM crops are a compliment to it's business and Monsanto designs plants to work well with their products. If you want to use a different herbicide and a different gene sequence you're completely welcome to, what your not allowed to do is use a specific genes that confer resistance to monsanto's own products.
I think the parallel development of eyes in many species proves that nature is rather flexible in how solutions can be implemented.
It's completely possible to make herbicide resistant plants with out infringing on Monsanto's IP. It just might be a little more difficult to make one for RoundUp.
Also, the Roundup Ready soybeans patent is due to expire in 2014, so in 2 years farmers all around the world get Roundup Ready soybeans for free, just as the patent system intended. By the time this gets infront of a judge the farmers could go plant all the patented crop they want.
Monsanto makes a tidy profit on the development, farmers eventually get the seed for free, Monsanto sells lots of roundup, which pollute the environment less than other herbicides, win, win, win.
Unless Monsanto suddenly stops selling Roundup and instead sells a different, "new and improved" herbicide with a new set of recently-patented resistent seeds. And lobbies for governments to ban Roundup because of a recently study saying it's a threat to the environment after all.
At least that's how it tends to work in the pharmaceutics industry.
This isn't really like the software industry, where there's lock-in effects. Unless you screw up, glyphosate still kills plants.
Dow provided the chemicals that Washington used from 1961 onward to destroy crops and forests in South Vietnam, drenching the country with Agent Orange.
These poisons contain dioxin, one of the most lethal carcinogens known, affecting millions of Vietnamese and many U.S. soldiers. To this day in Vietnam, aborted fetuses and deformed infants are very likely the effects of these crimes - though, in light of Washington's refusal to investigate, we have only the studies of Vietnamese scientists and independent analysts.
Joining the Vietnamese appeal against Dow are the government of India, the Indian Olympic Association, and the survivors of the horrendous 1984 Bhopal gas leak, one of history's worst industrial disasters, which killed thousands and injured more than half a million.
Union Carbide, the corporation responsible for the disaster, was taken over by Dow, for whom the matter is of no slight concern. In February, Wikileaks revealed that Dow hired the U.S. private investigative agency Stratfor to monitor activists seeking compensation for the victims and prosecution of those responsible."
America's Rank Hypocrisy, By Noam Chomsky, AlterNet 05 June 12
This is the kind of inflammatory reporting that creates divisiveness rather than informing people.
I don't doubt that Dow hired Stratfor. But isn't that exactly what a responsible corporation ought to do? Knowing that they've got some potential exposure to huge legal losses, they owe it to their stockholders (and are probably required by the SEC) to keep an eye open for the degree and size of that risk.
There is no reason to read that as anything more than responsible, prudent business. We can see that the "reporter" is prone to think of this in one way, but we might just as well assume that they're keeping tabs on things in order to find ways to satisfy those affected without exposing themselves to huge liabilities.
In my opinion, Chomsky and Krugman both ought to turn in their writing tools, and go back to the scientific pursuits that they're proven to be great at. (to be fair, there are hacks all across the political spectrum, but for some reason it seems that many people believe that these people, perhaps because of their excellent -- but unrelated -- scientific credentials, are above being manipulative)
1. Krugman-cum-commentator occasionally contradicts Krugman-cum-economist. For example, 
2. Krugman falls into the same trap as most economic commentators, in assuming that one side of the Keynes/Hayek divide has been proven right (which side depends on the commentator in question), refusing to acknowledge the lack of predictive success that the entire spectrum of macroeconomics suffers from. The truth of the matter is that neither side should consider the debate won, since both haven't achieved the scientific holy grail: to be able to reliably predict what will happen, given the inputs. And since this is the case, they ought to be a little more humble in their assertions.
3. The role of economics is to help us understand choices. It cannot tell us what choices are correct, only how they compare. Making policy requires that we overlay some value system to weigh those choices. Yet Krugman (and others) continue to overlook this part of it, and simply assuming the values, acting as if policy follows directly.
4. It's false that the GOP has embraced the Austrian model. Both the GOP and DEM are corporatist, and love regulation -- just of somewhat different sorts. Despite their rhetoric, except at the fringes, the GOP does not actually follow Austrian, Chicago, or any free-market ideology.
EDIT: full disclosure: I'm frequently guilty of #2 myself.
EDIT 2: change "frequently" to "occasionally"; don't want to be too hyperbolic.
There isn't a science that can make reliable predictions if the model relies on inputs consisting of even a tiny bit of human decision making, and economics is completely controlled by human decision making.
Dow made Agent Orange at the request of the US military decades ago. Are they supposed to be considered evil because of that? Union Carbide clearly screwed up in a huge way over Bhopal, but they settled with the Indian government, and tied up all liability before they were acquired. If you disagree with me, take it somewhere besides HN.
Disclosure: I grew up in Midland, MI, headquarters of Dow, and much of my family worked there.
I am from India. Union Carbide, now Dow didn't settle or tied up liability as you mentioned. They lobbied hard both domestically and internationally to run from here by paying least they could. Without the least regard to the victims.
>>Disclosure: I grew up in Midland, MI, headquarters of Dow, and much of my family worked there.
I don't know if you are biased here.
But if you kill people in thousands and injure a generation of millions of people. Then you need to account for something and have some responsiblity.
What Dow did isn't not compensating a factory plant worker who lost his hand. But systematically, with plans and full intentions refused/and refusing to accept responsibilities for their actions that killed several thousands and destroyed lives of millions of people in India.
If this is not wrong, I don't what is.
And I don't know how people involved with this see themselves in the mirror, sleep in the night or live with this on their conscious.
This was almost like a genocide, and victims denied reparations.
> Dow made Agent Orange at the request of the US military decades ago. Are they supposed to be considered evil because of that?
If you observe how even passing information to the gov't is condemned on HN, this almost seems like a rhethorical question.
I agree completely that businesses must act in an ethical way. However, I don't feel that Dow was unethical. The wiki pages on this are very one sided, making it appear an open and shut case. Dow disagrees, and I've heard that from toxicologists that I knew and respected personally.
To quote from
The jungles of South Vietnam were ideally suited for providing enemy cover for the guerilla tactics employed by troops battling South Vietnamese, American, and other allied forces during the Vietnam War. To offset ambush attacks and protect allied forces, the U.S. military sought to defoliate combat areas by developing and using the herbicide Agent Orange. U.S. military research developed Agent Orange, and the product was formulated based on exacting military specifications.
Companies supplying Agent Orange to the government included The Dow Chemical Company, Monsanto Company, Hercules Inc., Diamond Shamrock Chemicals Company, Uniroyal Inc., Thompson Chemical and T-H Agriculture and Nutrition Company.
Public concern over Agent Orange has centered not over the product itself, but an unavoidable by-product that was present in only trace levels of one of the product's ingredients. The unavoidable trace by-product was the dioxin compound 2,3,7,8-TCDD.
As a nation at war, the U.S. government compelled a number of companies to produce Agent Orange under the Defense Production Act. The government specified how it would be produced and controlled its use.
The scientific investigation on Agent Orange has gone on since the Vietnam War and continues today. There have been extensive epidemiological studies of those veterans most exposed to Agent Orange. Today, the scientific consensus is that when the collective human evidence is reviewed, it doesn't show that Agent Orange caused veteran's illnesses.
You are of course free to disagree with me, and Dow. However, this is such a political topic it boggles my mind we are discussing this on Hacker News. So how do you feel about Mitt Romney's chances, while we're at it?
But whether something is ethical just because the government compelled you to do it is a pretty general question. Dow's position about it seems pretty clear, especially since they only make statements about American veterans. I just wanted to point out that many people do not intuitively feel that way at all.
With this in mind, you could blame Dow and Monsanto for lack of quality control leading to human suffering. This would be a litigious offense in almost every nation. Even if you want to believe malice put the poison there rather than incompetence, guns aren't made or sold with specific intent to kill people. If they were (outside of war), you would be able to sue for the damage they caused.
So handguns and machine guns are manufactured for deer hunters?
Shooting innocent humans is bad.
Anecdotes aside, deer hunting is not the only form of hunting. Boar hunting with pistols is common. Small game hunting with .22 pistols is common. Deer hunting with long barrel .44s and .45s is not unheard of, though not necessarily legal in every state. Handguns aren't something I personally agree with very strongly, though. I don't like easily concealable weapons.
Before someone says "oh but you can use it for target shooting and/or sport!", there is nothing about the function of a gun and bullet which suggests it is intended for (for example) target shooting, since you don't need something as incredibly powerful as your average gun or bullet to shoot a target. Not to mention the wide variety and increase of both power and rate of fire of different weapons... these things are designed for war, basically. An AK-47 is an incredibly reliable and impressive weapon, and unless you are the worst hunter in the entire world, would never need such a weapon for hunting. It's like a bow and arrow with a grenade on the end.
And let me go even further: bows and arrows are intended to kill things as well. It's harder to kill something with it, but that's what they were invented for, and that's what you're practicing for on the range. But I don't hear many people screaming about boycotting bow and arrow manufacturers/salespeople. The fact that it takes skill to kill with one killing instrument while a child can kill with another, does not take away from their intended purpose, nor the fact that the market for the thing is why they exist to begin with.
unless you are the worst hunter in the entire world, would never need such a weapon for hunting. It's like a bow and arrow with a grenade on the end.
This is false. An AK-47 shoots 7.62x39 cartridges, similar to .308 Winchester, which is a very common load for deer hunting. I own an SKS, which was the predecessor to the AK, and shoots the same ammo. It's very cheap, and like the AK is very reliable. This, plus some quirks of US gun control laws, have made this a very popular hunting rifle.
The sibling comment said
I know a guy who hunts with an AR-15. Is that necessary in any way?
Actually, he's got it completely backwards. The loads used in an AR-15 are too weak to use in deer hunting, unless you're a damned good shot. It's a 5.56mm bullet -- essentially a .22 caliber bullet, but with a bunch more velocity to it. This standard NATO round was designed (or maybe later rationalized?) with two important features: (1) it's smaller and lighter, allowing a soldier to carry more of them; and (2) it generally does not kill its human target (and understand that deer are tougher than humans in this regard), and thus ties up not just the enemy's wounded, but also medical resources in caring for the wounded.
The bottom line is that deer, and even more so, bears, elk, moose, etc., are really tough prey. It takes a lot more to take down one of them than it does to incapacitate a human enemy. Thus you need greater kinetic energy from your ammunition when hunting them.
This, of course, says nothing about rate of fire. Semi-auto is very helpful to a hunter. However, full auto is not useful. But then again, it's not very useful to most soldiers, either. That's why the later NATO assault rifles -- M16A2 -- no longer feature full auto. They're selectable to single shot, or three-round bursts.
EDIT, clarification: actually, saying that it takes more kinetic energy for large game is only part of the picture. The real key is energy transferred to the target. So a solid bullet that passes through the target does less harm than a bullet that fragments and gets caught up in the target, thus imparting all of its energy into the target.
Back at the handgun comment further up the discussion, my grandpa used to carry a .22 pistol with him hunting in case the deer was wounded but not dead. I don't care much for pistols though.
I'm no great hunter, but an assault rifle is IMHO not best suited for hunting game. Effective stopping power is important, but so is picking the right tool for the job.
I have an SKS with 5 rounds in it. I don't need 5 to take down one, but it's not uncommon to fire two or three shots at once. It's nice to know that if you do that, there's still two or three left if the herd swings back around.
Other than that, 5 rounds is the smallest magazine they make. Bolt-action is a great detriment when it comes to hunting.
(p.s. you can use up to 10 rounds in an SKS with a stripper clip, but i'll assume nobody would do that for hunting)
I know a guy who hunts with an AR-15. Is that necessary in any way? No, I don't expect so. He seems to enjoy it though.
First of all, it's not illegal to sell arms to your own government's military, and the whole point of the military buying them is to kill people with. (Sorry, "defend our freedom")
Second, products aren't manufactured just for fun. They're made so someone can buy them and use them. The market's demands are the reason the product exists. So if you don't like the product, you have to direct your attentions to the market for the product, not the manufacturers or salespeople. You can get mad at the salesmen all you want - they'll still just collect their big fat paycheck and the market will keep on killing people. Assuming it's the killing and maiming you don't like, I highly recommend you get angry at the USA and not Dow, since the USA is the reason Dow invented and sold chemicals to begin with.
You can call Dow unethical if you want - they don't give a shit. And it is completely meaningless in the context of wanting people to stop getting hurt.
If so then you are certainly on a different internet. His statement is very valid or logical. He never said DOW was responsible, but they were acted unethically. Someone could write a computer virus that would wipe out the US government dataset for $1B then proceed to say "I was paid for it, I should not go to jail because I did not click START." They would be right, but they would also rank high on the list of most unethical individuals.
I'm part of a fifth generation farm family. We've been working the same ground for over 100 years (that's sustainability in practice) and I'm here to tell you that nobody is killing themselves. Especially with $6 corn. Monsanto is not the enemy of the family farm.
I'll elaborate when I have more time and a device other than my iPad as I know I need to provide more than this here on HN. :)
Monsanto is a nasty corporation, but their nastiness is fueled by government policy that allows them to leverage patents and practices to make a commodity product like corn as profitable to them as pharmaceuticals are to Genentech or AstraZenica.
It's great for you now, and results in cheap food prices for the consumer. But there are dangerous long-term social (ie. lots of obese people fattened up by artificially cheap and ubiquitous corn-derived sugar), biological and economic consequences
I will add that as a seventh generation farmer in Canada, where we have no real subsidies, we still grow just as much corn. It is a core part of our crop rotation, and even when it is a money loser, we still pretty much have to grow it at some point – you can get away with not growing it for a rotation or two, but it will catch up with you eventually.
I assume the same is true for Americans in the corn belt. How much of a factor do the subsidies really play in those decisions, or is it just a part of their normal crop rotation (with the added benefit of not having the big losses we often have to deal with here)?
I don't want to get too off into the HCFC rabbit trail, but I have yet to see any research that indicates anything other than correlative evidence between the ingestion of C6H1206 derived from corn. If you have access to research that proves causality I'd love to see it.
The US government decided at one time that lowering the cost of food proportionally would increase overall prosperity by giving consumers more buying power. The unintended side effect of that policy is that heavily sweetened prepared foods are now cheap and ingrained into culture.
Also, if you are importing diesel and fertilizer, you aren't quite self sustaining (I don't mean that in a pejorative sense, I like cheap and available food, but the popular idea of sustainability is about accounting for and balancing flows of energy, not keeping land productive).
We've(1) been harvesting crops off of the same ground every year for over 100 years. Thanks to technology the yields from the ground have increased every single year while the adjusted price of grain has dropped over the long term. Yes, we use fertilizer and diesel that are of course brought in from other areas as there is no other way to farm thousands of acres.
People that don't farm don't get how much we care about the land. It's not just some abstract cause temporarily adopted, it's what our father's father's passed to them and what we hope to pass to our sons and daughters. We want to use the smallest possible amount of fuel, fertilizers, and herb/pesticides because that stuff costs a lot of money and farming is a low margin operation (the last couple years notwithstanding). Technologies like Roundup-ready soybeans mean that we take fewer passes with a tractor over the same crop row, reducing the use of herb/pesticides and fuel, and dramatically reducing soil compaction.
(1) I make no income from farming, although I grew up working in the fields. I own a software company and I'm married into the family I'm referencing with the inclusive pronouns.
I suppose my point is that you are asking for a fight that I don't think is worth fighting when you use it the way you did (and I see merit to the fuzzy buzzword idea that encourages people to be more mindful of their impacts).
That, or because it's easier to dismiss someone's argument by discrediting their words.
I wonder if the debate over patentability of genes has been reinvigorated by the debate over the patentability of software methods. There's also an interesting parallel in the BitTorrent/media company conflict and the seed cleaner/Monsanto one. Certainly we hear more about software patents than bio ones, but maybe we just need to find and read BioHacker News...
I am wondering which of the farm practices engaged in right now, in 2012, in any way resemble the "sustaining" of a practice from 100 years ago?
Nobody in the US you mean.
Creating a monopoly on something naturally abundant (seed) is a part of Monsanto's long-term vision and a seed monopoly will make them a powerful political force in the world. The power to manage regional population by controlling seed supply has great military value.
How dependent are you on fossil fuels? How well would you fare as a farmer if you had no access to chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, or any sort of gasoline powered equipment?
How much would corn cost if the completely insane policy of diverting large amounts of it to ethanol production?
The people that are killing themselves are largely in India where there is an entirely different market.
It may be insane from a purely scientific point of view, but that doesn't tell the whole story. If you recall from around the 2006 timeframe, before the energy policy changes, we were swimming in corn. It was coming out of ears, sitting in massive stock piles doing nothing, and more was coming in each day. Even if you say ethanol is ultimately energy neutral/negative, it was still energy ripe for the taking.
Now the problem, even if you take away the subsidies, is that corn is still an important crop in a grain farmer's rotation. Looking back on the 2006 timeframe again, you might remember the farmers here in Canada losing their shirts over their corn production (we don't have the subsidies). But they still grew it, because there was no reasonable alternative. Not even leaving the fields fallow was an option, as the banks wouldn't hear of it (a loss on corn is smaller than the loss on no crop at all).
I've heard some suggest that farmers grow other crops instead of corn, which sounds good in theory, but those other crops require additional multi-million, even multi-billion, dollar outlay of new equipment and infrastructure to get started. Farmers are already operating on thin enough margins that it is financially impossible. It is cheaper to just take a loss on corn for the year.
It is just not clear to me what the alternative is, especially to maintain sustainable food production of other crops. It is far more complex than just the science of ethanol.
I think this is the problem with modern agriculture. It shouldn't be like that.
If there's a definition of non-sustainable it's surely spelled out quite clearly right there.
We haven't gotten to equipment yet. Center pivots start at $35K, tractors are about $100K, combines are $250K. We still need heads for the combines for each crop raised, and of course plantering, fertilizing, cultivating, ridging, and discing implements to tend the land. Figure $25K apiece. Add 15% if they're the proper shade of green.
I could keep going, but you get the point, hopefully, that farming is an extremely expensive enterprise with relatively low margins.
"Should" it be that way? With respect, what ag should or should not be isn't irrelevant. It is that way, and this is not a function of ag but rather a function of an industry working to supply demand.
Ag is not remotely unique in the assets that are required to operate. Watch the first season of How It's Made on Netflix and be amazed at how much expensive mechanization and automation is required to make something as simple as a work boot.
The equipment today is outlandishly expensive. While the equipment is well made, there's surely room for innovation. Just as we can apparently find ways to send things into space for a fraction of the conventional cost, there has to be a way to make a combine harvester, or something functionally equivalent, for less than a quarter million dollars.
(Note: I'm not claiming the site is disreputable, I've just never heard of the site and want to read more on sites (on in publications) I know.)
I have no idea if they're trustworthy either, but Wikipedia had this to say about them:
> RT is the second most-watched foreign news channel in the United States, after BBC News and the first most-watched news channel worldwide.
RT is, however, a propaganda tool of Putin and friends. I most certainly wouldn't trust their numbers or anything else they publish for that matter.
While there is a chance it could be true, the association itself makes anything quoted extremely suspect.
It's pretty much a Putin propaganda piece. Don't be mislead by their use of western journalists - they can only parrot the party line or put forward own fringe conspiracy theories.
Farming is, in some countries, a high risk occupation for suicide.
I agree that the hyperbole of the article is weird.
Pesticides are a leading suicide method, not cause. Come on, it's the title of the article you linked to.
As for the lawsuit, Monsanto sues a farmer because a farmer's land contains some of Monsanto's product. Fine, their product is essentially DNA, but they're allowed to call it their product. Fighting the patent is a losing fight. Right or wrong, it's a battle that won't be won until Kucinich is in the White House.
I've wondered why farmers don't file a counter-claim of trespassing since Monsanto allowed or caused their agents (both the patented DNA and whomever discovered the Monsanto plant) to enter a farmer's property. Additionally, it seems like there would be a case for destruction of property since the genetically modified seeds and plants crowd out the farmer's seeds and plants. Lastly, if the farmers really wanted to hit Monsanto with some irony, they should sue to have Monsanto pay for the removal of the modified seeds and plants. The farmer would have to argue that it is Monsanto's responsibility to prevent the outward spread of their crop. I'm sure the right judge could be found who would draw the comparison to breaking and entering someone's home.
But I'm reminded of a couple simple facts. You don't have to be right to sue someone. You don't have to be in the wrong to get sued. Win or loose, it's not cheap to go to court.
Anyone writing an article who thinks they need to only talk to one of the parties in a lawsuit isn't practicing journalism.
I'd rather not see this on HN. Maybe the topic is appropriate (patents), but the article doesn't give any information about that aspect of things.
I think the traffic from HN crashed their server.
Why don't they just use normal seeds or other seeds? Weren't these limitations known ahead of time? Why did the farmers make a deal with the devil? Why can't they switch back?
Got a source for that claim?
There's an article on huffington post which conflicts with the claim:
"What Monsanto is doing across the country is often, and according to farmers, trespassing even, on their land, examining their crops and trying to find some of their patented crops," said Andrew Kimbrell, with the Center For Food Safety. "And if they do, they sue those farmers for their entire crop." "
In that case, Schmeiser's field was contaminated by his neighbour's field which was planted with Roundup resistant Canola seed.
"... on the balance of probabilities, the defendants infringed a number of the claims under the plaintiffs’ Canadian patent number 1,313,830 by planting, in 1998, without leave or licence by the plaintiffs, canola fields with seed saved from the 1997 crop which seed was known, or ought to have been known by the defendants to be Roundup tolerant and when tested was found to contain the gene and cells claimed under the plaintiffs’ patent. By selling the seed harvested in 1998 the defendants further infringed the plaintiffs’ patent."
I'm still not sure that counts as infringement, but hey, who am I to disagree with a Canadian court's interpretation of Canadian law?
Who needs a source (or nuanced facts, for that matter) when you've got such an impossibly sticky narrative? True or not, Monsanto will always be known as the people who sued over their seeds.
Which is a shame, because there are plenty of perfectly good reasons to hate Monsanto without delving into half-truths.
"The court ruling said there was no likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent-infringement cases against the organic farmers, who have no interest in using the company's patented seed products."
So long as the organic farmers didn't replant the contaminated seed or sell it, they are safe from lawsuits. If a farmer does replant the seed and benefit from the use of weedkiller resistance, they can expect to be sued.
It's a lot like software patents in some sense. You can't actually insulate yourself from infringement.
Since the government started de-regulating many agricultural practices and allowing for the patenting of organisms, argribusiness intensely lobbies Congress to the point that they control agricultural policy.
Basically, the genetics of modified crops are patented. So if the wind carries corn pollen from your neighbor's farm to your organic cornfield, your crop will pick up some patented genetic characteristics. Then Monsanto's people come and sue you for using their intellectual property.
Monsanto also acts to squelch competition. They purchased companies that make specialized equipment designed to clean and prepare non-hybrid seeds for storage, and shut down manufacturing. They also send people out to buy up old equipment used for seed cleaning, and if you are found have infringed on Monsanto's intellectual property, they'll have the court seize your seed-cleaning equipment.
And "the market" is right. In the short term :)
The only way this makes sense to me is either GM seeds are subsidized, or a significant % of farms switched all at once.
Eventually, something must give. Either cheap, GMO food will prevail (likely) or it'll fall (unlikely). Either situation will result in much higher food prices, either from more expensive farming methods or from companies like Monsanto being at liberty to extract more from the consumers who now have no alternatives.
On top of that the situation is still more complex, crop variety research in everything but Wheat and Oats is dominated by private industry so their interest is to ensure that any new varieties fall under the patent protection regime that GMO crops offer because the protections are better than plant-breeders rights. (Also I disagree with the 2x difference posted above but do agree that the divergence has become substantial.)
In addition because the global fertilizer business is effectively a cartel fertilizer prices have nothing to do with the costs of production but instead what the market will bear. (Natural gas is a key element and has been near all-time lows for quite a while but fertilizer prices are relatively high.) So the fertilizer companies are pricing to ensure that you must stay on the highest-productivity path in order to stay above water.
Finally, the vast majority of modern farmers in North America have gone from being cooperative-oriented to more pro-market and largely believe that this current state of affairs is somehow in their best interests -- what is good for agribusiness is good for farmers. It is my humble opinion that the market is totally broken and farmers are very ineffective at working together to counter-balance the powers of the large corporations in the industry.
Monopoly, in other words.
If I personally went and bought Monsanto seed and used it for my own plants the I ate/gave away and gave it to friends who all used it for personal use, Monsanto would be hard pressed to stop me/they probably wouldn't bother.
Monsanto says that because their seed and their plants are growing on a farmer's land, that farmer must have stolen the seed and is benefiting from stolen property. So they want a cut of the gain from the stolen property.
The farmers say that pollen goes where the wind blows it and plants and their DNA spread naturally. The farmers say that they did not intend to grow a Monsanto product but because the Monsanto products grow in greater densities and are more robust than naturally growing soy and other crops, the Monsanto products crowd out the farmer's naturally growing products.
We're talking about a company who basically got where they are today by manufacturing chemical laden plastics, acids and more knowingly Agent Orange which was used in the Vietnam war as a chemical weapon and the artificial sweetener aspartame under the brand name Nutrasweet. I can only think of one good thing Monsanto have done for the public: they were the first company to start mass manufacturing light emitting diodes in the 70s which are now used in everything. But if it weren't Monsanto, someone else would've eventually done the same thing anyway.
I hope these farmers succeed. You shouldn't be able to own a patent on mother nature just because you modified a few cells. What's next: parents having to pay royalty fee's for children born via IVF? When nanotechnology starts being commonly used in vaccinations and medicines are we going to have to pay a licencing fee to keep the vaccine/medicine working? What happens if and when human cloning takes place, is that clone the property of the creator and licensed out to the original the person was cloned from?
The argument is over whether the purchase of seeds implies the farmer is financing the 'use' (like a car lease) or the 'ownership' of the seed (like a car purchase).
Monsanto will argue that as the seed's utility is not entirely consumed by it's use (planting) that the most suitable pricing model is to finance the 'use' of the seed, not its ownership. Ergo royalties.
They have an enormously strong point to make here - which is that if ownership were implied by purchase the price would be much higher (as they would need to factor in both the value that future generations of seed provides and cannibalization of future seed demand from renewals).
Which is why the outcome of this case is somewhat moot. If Monsanto is prevented from charging a royalty because of some technicality they would simply charge a much higher upfront price, which they would then allow you to finance (and the farmer will end up being economically indifferent to whether it is called a royalty or not).
When you buy the seed, they tell you straight up that you can't replant. And I'm not a farmer (grew up in farming community), but I don't think this is unique to GMO crops either. I believe the same thing happens for "conventional" hybrid crops from breeding.
Sorry, I don't care how relevant or accurate the other information is, but it's not valid after that. Monsanto may or may not be evil, and the farmers may or may not be good, but you certainly can't (shouldn't) form any opinion based on this junk.
Using Runyon as an example - even if evidence shows that he took advantage of the situation he was inadvertently involved. The root cause was not of his initiation. Ultimately, in my eyes, it should be the responsibility of Monsanto and it's customers to enforce containment. If that's not possible, then they have a flawed product. Monsanto is well aware of the risk involved in IP within a seed. It's main objective in it's lifecycle is to self-sustain, so unless they can turn that off without a doubt they have to accept the risk.
What I mean: If Monsanto and it's customers can't contain the product they buy and use then there should be no implications for anyone around them to take on that responsibility.
Example (and I know these haven't been going well, so my stab): BP comes knocking on Runyon's neighbor's door. They want to drill in his (the neighbor's) fields, but there is high risk that they may contaminate a shared water table Runyon and the neighbor's land is sitting on. The neighbor decides to go forth - and the inevitable happens. Now - who's fault is it? Runyon's - for being where he is and not instigating (at all) the actions that the neighbor chose to execute? In an argument where the outcome is bad - it's easy to identify the bad actor. In an argument where the outcome is indirectly good there is no incentive for Runyon to sue his neighbor for giving him something that normally should be paid for.
Solution?: Monsanto must place all risk of seed carryover on to it's customers. It is not the anonymous farmers responsibility to fight Monsanto when their competition (the neighbor) has instigated the problem. BUT... Monsanto would never sue their own customers because that is counter-productive; nobody would buy seed from them.
I agree with suing Monsanto. But on the basis that Monsanto and it's customers are operating under a negligent business model which enables them to sue innocent farmers. It almost seems to me that Monsanto is under the assumption that emminent domain applies to it's intellectual property - of which I do not agree.
If the BP spill would have leaked $20 bills instead of oil - you really think there would have been any lawsuits or complaints?
Bottom line: if Runyon didn't intentionally set out to steal Monsanto seeds then he has no responsibility to Monsanto. If you argue that he took advantage of the situation I would argue that is his right and luck. Now if he turns around and directly competes with Monsanto - there may be a case. Otherwise in the land of my personal morals I don't believe Runyon can be held accountable.
EDIT: Formatting. And thought... If Monsanto has the genetic research capability to create a product that is resistant to something like RoundUp - why can't it modify the lifecycle of the plant to only grow if some simple additive is sprayed on the newly planted field to "activate" it? Something along the lines of a license key for seeds. That way - if Runyon was caught with plants in an entire field it would showcase theft. It's easier for Monsanto to sue innocent bystanders than put money into R&D of a protection mechanism I would guess... And, yes, I've oversimplified genetic engineering, but again - it's a flawed product if you can't protect it.