Originally published August 27 2015
Monsanto's GMO seed patents begin to expire
by L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
(NaturalNews) Once upon a time, people who planted seeds and worked with the land answered only to the laws of nature. Farmers were free. They kept the seeds from each harvest so they could plant them again the next season. No permission was required to plant each year. Chemical herbicides were not needed to grow the seed because the seed was not engineered with herbicide-resistant traits.
Under corporate farming, the exact opposite is true. Farmers are now indebted, beholden to corporations like Monsanto. Farmers have to pay Monsanto each year to use their genetically modified seeds. Scientists working for Monsanto edit the genome of seeds to give the seeds unique traits, like herbicide resistance. This seed technology is then patented, giving the Monsanto corporation authority over nature and control over agriculture. The genetically modified seed, which is subsidized by the government, quickly becomes the farmer's most efficient crop to plant.
In the aftermath, diverse, small farms that pay attention to soil quality and plant health fade away to large, pesticide-modulated farming operations that are only concerned with increasing yields. These operations focus solely on singular crops while destroying the natural environment with herbicides that affect pollinator health and diversity in the fields.
This control over nature forces farmers in this cycle of paying Monsanto yearly for their patented GM seed. These Roundup Ready seeds ensure Monsanto's dominance, bolstering the corporation's monopoly over both the GM seed and the herbicide that is used specifically for the seeds' edited genome. As Monsanto's GMO seed patents start to expire, many are wondering if farmers will free themselves from the Monsanto monopoly reigning over them.
Monsanto patents expire, but they've already planned a way to further their monopolyAs Monsanto patents expire, generic forms of GM soybean seed that cost half as much as Monsanto's have become available. These generic brands might allow farmers to save their own seeds and not need permission to grow crops year to year.
In the pharmaceutical world, when drug patents lift, a company reformulates the drug, usually using a new release mechanism. Generic, cheaper versions of the same drug rush in to fill the void, cutting away at the monopoly of the original patented drug. If the same thing happens in agriculture, Monsanto could lose its dominance, but experts believe that isn't likely to happen because the seed market differs immensely from the drug market. Farmers don't buy seeds in the same way that people buy drugs.
"If you see TV ads for drugs, they don't say much about the medication. They're just happy people dancing and doing fun things," says Michael Ward, an economist at the University of Texas at Arlington. "Those types of ads are probably not going [to] sway farmers. Seeds are core to farmers' business."
Ward says that farmers are more apt to look at the hard numbers than be swayed by advertisements, and the hard numbers are in Monsanto's favor because the corporation arranges their patent process to be a step ahead of the competition at all times.
Monsanto carefully prepares for the special moment when their patents expire. All they have to do is modify the same gene but do it in a different part of the genome. For example, Monsanto reformulated their Roundup Ready soybeans years ago and released them with the Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield trait, giving the crops more resistance than the generics waiting to flood the market. The generics that come to market when the Monsanto patent expires don't compare in terms of herbicide resistance. Farmers are then trapped in Monsanto's never-ending game of reformulated genome editing and patent control cycle. By the time the generics get a chance to come to the market, the technology is outdated.
"This is old technology, and everybody is looking to new technology," says Pengyin Chen, a University of Arkansas soybean breeder who developed and commercialized one of the first generic Roundup Ready soybean seeds. "When the iPhone 7 comes out, no one will want to work on the iPhone 6."
When the Roundup Ready 2 patents expire, Monsanto will be poised to take control again. In 2016, Monsanto will patent a soybean trait that is resistant to two different herbicides. Their dominance will continue until humanity comes to the collective realization that nature cannot be controlled and its spirit cannot be owned.
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