Five million Brazilian farmers have sued Monsanto for as much as 6.2 billion euros, accusing the company of collecting royalties on crops it unfairly claims is the property of Monsanto.
The farmers are challenging Monsanto’s practice of collecting royalties on seed harvests planted using seed from the previous year’s crops — a primeval tradition at the very core of agriculture which has played a major role in human history since 6000 BC.
But because Monsanto Roundup Ready soybeans are patented creations of the company, Monsanto charges an initial royalty on the sale of the crop produced, and a continuing royalty on every subsequent crop, even if the farmer is using a later generation of seed.
As Russia Today points out: In essence, Monsanto argues that once a farmer buys their seed, they have to pay the global bio-tech giant a yearly fee in perpetuity – with no way out.
“Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay again. Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production,” said Jane Berwanger, lawyer for the farmers.
According to Russia Today, the Brazilian court has ruled in favor of the Brazilian farmers saying Monsanto owes them at least US$2 billion paid since 2004. Monsanto, however, has appealed the decision and the case is ongoing.
Despite a Brazilian ban on GMO’s, in the 1990′s, GMO soy was illegally smuggled in to Brazil from neighboring Argentina.
The ban was lifted and now 85 per cent of the Brazilian soy crop is genetically-engineered. GMO Soy currently makes up 26 per cent of the country’s farm exports.
Last year, Brazil was the world’s second producer and exporter of soybean behind the United States, netting Brazil a over $24 billion.
Worldwide Resistance Against Monsanto
Over a decade ago, Monsanto sued two brothers who farmed in Arkansas for saving and replanting 800 bushels of Roundup Ready soybeans.
Monsanto filed a number of lawsuits in that case, but most farmers settled out of court to avoid a protractive and expensive legal battle. At the time, Monsanto was investigating some 365 farmers for saving seed.
Monsanto’s attempts to monopolize the seed industry prompted soybean and other farmers to form the National Family Farm Coalition to combat the spread of genetically engineered crops.
The coalition helped file a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and other seed companies for attempting to monopolize the seed trade with patented crops. The suit charged that Monsanto and other companies work together to fix prices and dominate the market.
A new report by La Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth International and Combat Monsanto shows that around the world small-holder and organic farmers, local communities and social movements are increasingly resisting and rejecting Monsanto, and the agro-industrial model that it represents.
In 2010, the National Biodiversity Authority of India sued Monsanto, and the company’s Indian partners who developed a genetically-modified eggplant.
A genetically modified version of eggplant was slated to be the first GM food introduced into India, but Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh blocked its release following a vehement protest by environmentalists and farmers.
In 2011, 270,000 members of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit against Monsanto challenging the company’s patents on genetically modified seed.
Led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, PUBPAT represents scores of family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations with over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.
In 2010, a group of Haitian farmers organized a march in protest of Monsanto’s presence in Haiti. Haitian farmers with The Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) pledged to burn Monsanto’s GMO seeds as part of the protest.
Anthony Gucciardi points out that in 2008, the Daily Mail covered what is known as the “GM Genocide”, which is responsible for taking the lives of over 17,683 Indian farmers in 2009.
“After finding that their harvests were failing and they began to enter economic turmoil, the farmers began ending their own lives — oftentimes drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto provided them with.”