2-Plants: Monsanto Behind Legislation to Regulate Open-Pollinated Seed
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- Date: Tue, 9 Mar 99 17:48:11 -0000
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Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)
7 March 1999
*** Monsanto is Behind Anti-Farmer Legislation to Regulate ***
Open-Pollinated Seed Cleaners
*** Ohio Bill Discriminates Against Seed-Saving Farmers ***
A bill has been introduced in the Ohio state legislature (United States)
that would require registration and state-level regulation of anyone who
cleans or conditions self-pollinated seed. According to the Rural
Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), the proposed legislation is
part of Monsanto's aggressive corporate strategy to police rural
communities and intimidate seed-saving farmers.
"The proposed legislation is part of a dangerous trend to eliminate or
restrict the right of farmers to save and exchange seed - all in the name
of increasing seed industry profits" explains Hope Shand, Research
Director of RAFI. "We weren't surprised to learn that Monsanto is behind
the bill, because the company is already waging a ferocious campaign
against seed-saving farmers and it's actively developing the
controversial suicide seeds - or Terminator technology," said Shand.
Terminator is a technique for genetically altering a plant so that the
seeds it produces are sterile.
According to the Ohio Seed Improvement Association, the proposal to amend
Ohio's seed law originated with agribusiness giant Monsanto last year.
Monsanto is the world's largest seller of genetically modified seed.
Under US patent law it is illegal for farmers to save patented seed. To
enforce its exclusive monopoly, Monsanto has aggressively prosecuted
farmers for what the company calls "seed piracy." But seed saving is
illegal only if the farmer is saving or re-using patented seed. Farmers
who grow soybeans and wheat, for example, typically save seed from their
harvest to re-plant the following year. An estimated 25% of North
American soybean seed is farm-saved seed.
Monsanto has waged an aggressive, Draconian campaign against seed-saving
farmers in North America. The company has hired Pinkerton investigators
to root-out seed-saving farmers and it is using radio ads and telephone
"tiplines" in farming communities to identify and intimidate farmers who
might save or re-use the company's patented seed. Under Monsanto's gene
licensing agreement, the company reserves the right to come onto the
farmer's land and take seed samples to insure that the farmer is not
violating patent law.
"It appears that Monsanto's newest strategy is to shift the expense and
burden of policing rural communities to the seed cleaners and state
governments. If the bill becomes law, Monsanto's "gene police" will
ultimately become state regulators who are working on behalf of
Monsanto," explains Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI.
"The Ohio legislation is unfair to farmers because it places an onerous
regulatory burden on all seed-saving farmers and seed cleaners - not just
farmers who buy Monsanto's patented seed," explains Shand. If the bill
becomes law, it would require seed cleaners to keep detailed records on
every seed cleaning transaction, to document the name of the farmer, seed
variety names and whether or not the seed is protected by patents or
breeders' rights. "In essence, the bill discriminates against farmers
who are lawfully saving and re-planting open-pollinated seed varieties,"
asserts RAFI's Shand.
Ohio farmer and custom seed cleaner Roger Peters opposes the proposed
bill to regulate open-pollinated seed cleaners. "Why should any farmer
be forced to keep records on law-abiding farmers who clean their own
seed?" asks Peters. "And why should public tax dollars be used to protect
the patents of private seed companies like Monsanto?" questions Peters.
"State-level seed laws are supposed to protect farmers, not penalize
them," asserts Sean McGovern, Executive Administrator of the Ohio
Ecological Food and Farmers Association, a Columbus, Ohio-based
organization that promotes sustainable agriculture and certifies organic
farmers. "I can't imagine any use for this bill accept to enforce
Monsanto's patents," concludes McGovern.
Background information on HB 85, introduced in the Ohio State Legislature
on January 28, 1999.
Specifically, H.B. 85, amendments to the Ohio Seed Law would:
- Require all seed cleaners to register as a seed cleaner or conditioner.
(The bill states that the Director of Agriculture will determine the
minimum quantity of self-pollinated seed that when cleaned or conditioned
would require the person to become registered.)
- Require the seed cleaner to keep records on every farmer and seed
cleaning/conditioning transaction. The seed cleaner would be required to
keep all records for a minimum of five years and make the records
available to the State Director of Agriculture on request.
- The seed cleaner would be required to document the following
1. The commonly accepted name and brand or variety being cleaned;
2. A declaration of any patent, or plant variety protection certificate,
issued for the seed being cleaned or conditioned;
3. The name, address, telephone number of the farmer who submitted the
seed to be cleaned or conditioned; the amount of seed cleaned or
conditioned; and an indemnification statement signed by the person who
submitted the seed for cleaning:
"The undersigned promises to reimburse or indemnify the seed cleaner or
conditioner for any liability damages that the seed cleaner or
conditioner may incur for any violation of a patent or a certificate
issued under the Plant Variety Protection Act resulting from cleaning or
conditioning the undersigned's seed, including all damages, liability
payments, costs, and attorney's fees arising in connection with the
- The seed cleaner or conditioner is required to retain a sample of each
type and variety or brand of seed cleaned or conditioned for at least 18
- The Director of Agriculture may inspect all records, documents and
samples required to be kept by the seed cleaner /conditioner to determine
if he/she is in compliance with the law. If the Director suspects that a
registered seed cleaner or conditioner has violated or is violating a
provision - the director shall conduct a hearing, and may suspend,
revoke, or refuse to renew the person's registration.
For more information, contact:
Hope Shand, Rural Advancement Foundation International
Tel: 717 337-6482
Pat Mooney, Rural Advancement Foundation International
Tel: 204 453-5259
Roger L. Peters, Farmer
Oak Harbor, Ohio
Tel: 419 898-1210
RAFI (The Rural Advancement Foundation International) is an international
civil society organization head-quartered in Canada. RAFI is dedicated
to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and to the
socially responsible development of technologies useful to rural
societies. RAFI is concerned about the loss of agricultural
biodiversity, and the impact of intellectual property on farmers and food
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