Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sustainable Pulse

A judge in Brazil has blocked Monsanto’s attempt to make farmers sign restrictive agreements before they can gain access to the company’s new GM seed, RR2 Intacta soybeans. The legal case was brought against Monsanto by the farmers’ union Sinop Rural Union and applies to all farmers in the state of Mato Grosso [Source: GM Watch].

The background to this story is that last year the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that Monsanto had collected royalties from farmers illegally for its RR1 soybeans and that the company must refund the farmers.

Monsanto then reached a deal with Famato and other farmers’ unions. The deal was that farmers who wanted to plant RR2 Intacta soybeans would sign an agreement with Monsanto at point of purchase, waiving their rights to a refund of the illegally collected royalties.

Any farmer who signed the agreement would also be signing away other important rights. He would grant Monsanto the right to enter and inspect his property at any time. The farmer would be left completely vulnerable to ANY decisions the company might make, including royalty fee increases or having part of his harvest confiscated – and he would agree not to sue Monsanto at any time. At the same time, the company does not guarantee a yield increase from RR2 Intacta.

The farmer would also agree to “the declaration of principles that recognise the intellectual property rights on agricultural technologies”. This contravenes Brazilian seed law, which protects farmers’ rights to save seed and to use or sell the products of their own cultivation. In short, the agreement put Monsanto’s interests above Brazilian law and deprived farmers of their rights.

In the latest ruling on 11 October, the judge blocked Monsanto’s demands that farmers sign the agreement as a condition to buy RR2. The judge said that Monsanto is unfairly taking advantage of its favorable position in the market as the only technology provider of Intacta RR2, in forcing farmers to “to comply with clauses that are burdensome, if not illegal” as a condition of purchasing the product. In addition, the judge said that Monsanto’s agreement may contravene Brazilian consumer law.

A Brazilian source told GMWatch that Monsanto is experiencing growing resistance to its methods in Brazil: “As in the USA, farmers who prefer to cultivate non-GM soybeans to avoid the complications are frequently accused of delivering GM-contaminated soybeans. A test is made by a Monsanto technician when the soybeans arrive at the silos. If the result is positive, the farmer can’t verify the accuracy of the test.”

If GM contamination is alleged, then not only does the farmer have to pay royalties to Monsanto, but he loses the premium for his non-GMO soy harvest.

The source added that despite the company’s struggles to consolidate its products and set aside the legal disputes, RR2 is still far from being the “product of choice” for farmers: “In recent TV interviews, farmers said they will go back to non-GM soy varieties with a higher yield than RR2. They also say this avoids a lot of trouble.

“Although many are still led to believe Monsanto is a partner, more and more are becoming aware of the abusive practices. As a result, not as many farmers will go for RR2 in 2014...”

Read more: Sustainable Pulse


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