Biotechnology and agricultural giant Monsanto sells most of the seeds on the U.S. market, and organic farms have long complained about the agri-giant’s monopolistic approach to farming. The U.S. Patent Office ruled in 1982 that plants were able to be patented, clearing the way for Monsanto to create proprietary seeds that need to be purchased every growing season – in other words, altering thousands of years of farming practices, the seeds won’t propagate. If you want to plant Monsanto tomatoes, you have to buy new seeds every year. After years of fighting the multinational corporation’s growing influence over farming in the United States, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) filed a law suit in 2011 challenging Monsanto’s right to patent seeds. OGSATA also believes that pollen from Monsanto’s genetically modified seed stock is contaminating organic farms and threatening the entire organic farming industry. Monsanto has, for its part, sued farmers when some of its seeds turned up in adjacent fields.
Has Monsanto become too powerful in the agricultural industry? Should one company be allowed to patent the majority of seeds grown on American farms? And should humans have the right to decide whether to eat genetically modified foods?
Jim Gerritsen, organic potato farmer; president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
Martina Newell-McGlaughlin, Director Life and Health Sciences Research Initiatives; Director International Biotechnology Program at UC Davis