Brazil, the second-largest producer of genetically modified (GM) crops (after the U.S.), is the latest country to take a stand against biotech giant Monsanto, which could end up handing over at least $2 billion as a result.
A war has been waging against Monsanto in Brazil for nearly a decade, virtually ever since the country legalized farming of GM crops in 2005.
Since then, Monsanto has been charging Brazilian farmers double – once for their seeds, and again when they sell their crops.
Farmers Have Had Enough With Monsanto’s Royalty Taxes and Penalties
In case you’re wondering how Monsanto has risen to the ranks of a superpower, a major reason is their patent on GM seeds, like the GM soya seeds in Brazil, which account for nearly 85 percent of the country’s total soybean crop. Each GM seed is patented and sold under exclusive rights.
Therefore, farmers must purchase the GM seeds every year, because saving seeds (which has long been the traditional way) is considered to be patent infringement. Anyone who does save GM seeds must pay a license fee to actually re-sow them.
But that’s not all.
In Brazil, Monsanto has charged farmers a 2 percent royalty fee on all of their Roundup Ready sales since 2005! And, they test all of the soy seeds marketed as “non-GM” to be sure they don’t contain any Monsanto seeds. If they are found to contain the patented seeds, the farmer is penalized close to 3 percent of his sales!
The issue with the latter penalty is that GM soy is very hard to contain, and often contaminates nearby fields. So farmers are forced to pay a penalty for having their fields contaminated with GM crops, through no fault of their own – and likely against their wishes entirely!
For years now, farmers have been taking Monsanto to court over their excessive fees and taxes, and in 2009, a group of farmers sued the company, claiming the Monsanto tax was illegal because it was impossible to keep the GM seeds away from the non-GM varieties.
A judge ruled that the tax was illegal, especially since the patents on Roundup Ready seeds in Brazil already expired. Monsanto was ordered to stop collecting all royalties … and to return all the royalties collected since 2004 – an amount that could add up to a minimum of $2 billion!
Monsanto appealed, but in June 2012 the Supreme Court dismissed it, so it looks like Monsanto is going to be getting their just deserts.
France, India Also Find Monsanto Guilty
Earlier this year, a French court found Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning in a case involving a French farmer, who suffered neurological problems after exposure to Monsanto’s Lasso weed killer. A few years before that, a French court again found Monsanto guilty, this time of falsely advertising its Roundup herbicide as “biodegradable,” “environmentally friendly” and claiming it “left the soil clean.”
France has also recently asked the European Commission to suspend Monsanto’s authorization to plant genetically modified MON 810 corn, citing “significant risks for the environment” shown in recent scientific studies (Germany has also banned the cultivation of MON 810 corn).
Meanwhile, India’s National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), a government agency, is suing Monsanto and their collaborators, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company, for stealing local varieties of eggplant to develop a genetically modified version.
India requires that any entity attempting to use a native plant for commercial or research purposes must first get approval; Monsanto, however, neglected to do this, opting instead to essentially steal the native plants in order to modify them for their own commercial gain
The case marks the first time a government has accused Monsanto of biopiracy, and the results could set an important precedent for the future of the food supply.