How Long Will Monsanto Allow Organic Farming?

Kristina Hubbard and Matthew Dillon over at Daily Yonder asked the all-important question today: Who’ll Own the Seed?

Who cares, right? Seed is seed….you can get it for $0.99 at the grocery store. Not if you’re interested in raising heirloom vegetables. Not if you are an organic farmer.

Vital seed stock is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few large biotech corporations, including the controversial Monsanto Corp. This means the best genetic lines are simply unavailable to farmers and bio-engineers dedicated to developing crops that thrive under organic conditions.

So what can we do about it?

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Author: Tricia Ballad

  1. We can forbid the patenting of wild genetic material, and restrict patents to new chimeric genes and modified organisms ONLY. The current system is deeply broken, and is hindering science.

  2. I agree – the current system is definitely broken, and it will take a two-pronged attack to fix it. On one hand, there are governmental solutions such as those you mention. Do you know of current legislation to restrict patents of genetic material?

    The other side of the solution comes from individual gardeners and organic farmers who quietly save and trade heirloom seeds.

  3. Last month, the USDA released Monsanto’s GMO sugar beets for use (with minor limits), despite a court order that they had to wait for more environmental impact assessment.

    This decision appeared to be less about science and more about marketing – and Monsanto’s monopoly on seeds. As Tom Philpott noted at Grist,

    Sugar beets provide about half of the sugar consumed in the United States — and Monsanto controls 95 percent of the sugar beet seed market with its Roundup Ready genes. The company’s stranglehold over the beet market demonstrates its insidious market power. When a federal judge demanded in August 2010 that farmers stop planting Monsanto’s GM beet seeds pending an impact study, farmers quickly found out that virtually no non-GM seed was available. Between 2005, when the USDA first greenlighted GM beets, and 2010, Monsanto had essentially driven all competition out of the market.

    That August court order roiled the food industry, raising the specter of higher sweetener costs because farmers would be forced to plant fewer beets due to lack of seeds.

    And of course, now that GMOs have become ubiquitous Monsanto is starting to argue (via surrogates, of course) that we should just let Organic farmers use Monsanto’s seeds:

    When the USDA approved Monsanto’s gene-modified (GMO) alfalfa back in January, the Big Ag party line was that Organic producers had nothing to worry about. There was just not that much risk of contamination.

    Now, barely two months later, stories like this one are being seeded in the mainstream media: “A Growing Debate: How To Define ‘Organic’ Food“

    That NPR story explains that some folks are being silly purists. Folks like Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association who think Organic should be… Organic. American farmers have been following Organic standards for decades – how hard can it be?

    Pretty hard, it turns out. They can’t sell food that hasn’t been contaminated, because it doesn’t exist anymore…

  4. This may all work itself out…as monsanto pushes roundup ready plants into circulation (the GMOs we aare talkign about here) they are unwittingly creating roundup ready weeds as well…in a few years farmers are goign to have to go back to traditional methods adn abandon the better livign through chemicals thory that is currentyl goign on.

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