Five million farmers are suing U.S.-based biotech corporation Monsanto for its mistreatment of Brazilian crop growers. Farmworkers there say that Monsanto makes an exorbitant profit each year on royalties from "renewal" seed harvests. Renewal crops are those that were planted with seed from the previous year's harvest.
The company demands royalties from any crop generation produced from its genetically modified seeds, which is patented. It then charges a two percent royalty on each subsequent crop produced.
Jane Berwanger, lawyer for the farmers, clarified, "Monsanto gets paid when it sells the seed. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy, and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay again." But in this situation, "producers are in effect paying a private tax on production."
This is considered by farmers to be outrageous; many of them cannot afford to do this. But Monsanto is essentially arguing that once a farmworker buys their seed, they have to pay a perpetual yearly fee to the corporation, with no way out.
A Brazilian judge ruled in favor of the farmers, but Monsanto has appealed the decision, arguing that the farmers agreed to pay the royalties by proxy when they first purchased the seed.
Many environmentalists and health advocates strongly detest Monsanto's genetically "enhanced" seed in the first place. The corporation has a long, manipulative criminal history, and is rapidly gaining free reign over agriculture, to the detriment of workers' rights and livelihoods.
Dan Ravicher, executive director of patent watchdog group PUBPAT, remarked, "It's in Monsanto's financial interests to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply. This is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange and other toxins, which they said were safe, but [which we] know are not."
Photo: Demonstrators in Montpelier, Vermont protest chemical corporation Monsanto's use of genetically modified seeds. In Brazil, the company is demanding that farmers pay them royalties for any crop generation produced from such seeds. Toby Talbot/AP