How Farmers Feel About Patented Seed Saving

July 20, 2009

By Tyne Morgan

One of the many perks of my job is being able to talk to U.S. farmers on a regular basis.

It’s exciting to talk to farmers about future technology coming down the pipeline to help them reach even higher yields, what farming practicing they have in place to make them as productive as possible, what it’s like farming with their family, etc. And some topics aren’t as exciting to discuss with farmers, but yet satisfying to hear their responses.

In this video I discussed the issue of other farmers saving patented seed with farmers who don’t believe in that type of farming practice.

If you think about it, it’s pretty simple. The law is the law. When you sign an agreement, you must obey that agreement. Just like when I buy a CD of my favorite artist (which I do have quite the collection), I don’t burn it for friends. At the same time, I download quite a bit of songs to jam to on my iPod and I buy each and every one of those songs from iTunes.

Although these examples are on a much smaller scale, it’s the right thing to do.

My parents raised me to always do the right thing, even if it costs more or doesn’t seem like the most appealing option. I was raised on good morals, which I credit and thank my parents daily for. Just as I was raised on these morals, so were the two farmers featured in this video.

I hope you see it that way.

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16 Responses to “How Farmers Feel About Patented Seed Saving”

  1. Gwenn Says:

    This is confusing. Are you talking about saving seed or saving PATENTED seed? Those are two very different things and it’s your responsibility to make a clear difference.

    • Kate Says:

      Gwenn:

      “In this video I discussed the issue of other farmers saving patented seed with farmers who don’t believe in that type of farming practice.”


  2. There will always be those that attempt to make a fast buck by circumventing whatever laws are on the books. It is only when the consequence is high enough that there will be adherance to any agreement. Goes back to ethics. If you were taught good ethics, chances are you are going to abide and live by same. I say hang them high where everyone can see them if an agreement signed was broken. Kills most when you hang their pocketbook.

  3. Charles Says:

    It would have been nice to have had some farmers who were willing to say “Well, Monsanto put all this money into developing these traits, so it’s only fair for us to pay for the seeds.”

    Instead, all this video says is “It’s against the law.” and “If I have to pay for it, they should too.” Hardly the definitive stance I was expecting.

  4. John Q Says:

    Charles:

    Yes, that would have been nice, and they likely would have been willing to say it, if Monsanto had asked them to. But [I think] Monsanto wanted the farmers to speak in their own words. If the farmers didn’t think it was fair for them to pay for the seeds, they wouldn’t have paid for the seeds to begin with.

    But [the way I interpret it] these farmers aren’t looking at it from Monsanto’s viewpoint. They are simply asking for a level playing field on which to compete. These farmers are doing the right thing, and if other farmers are allowed to do the WRONG thing, the other farmers have a competitive advantage, because they can either derive greater profits or drive down the price because their upfront costs are less, and eventually drive the ethical farmers out of business.

    And I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to think a farmer that is unethical in one area is likely to be unethical in another, such as salmonella testing. I don’t want to buy my food from those people.

  5. Ewan Ross Says:

    While that would be nice I can envision that response as being pretty rare – the first thing I think when hearing about piracy of video games or music isn’t the investment put into the products, but the fact it isn’t fair that I pay for these things while others don’t.

  6. ssolo112 Says:

    Down with Monsanto you people are monsters. You don’t own seeds!!!

    *Editors Note: Video removed to comply with copyright laws

  7. John Q Says:

    ssolo112, much as I hate to justify your comment by responding to it:

    By the same logic, “Food, Inc.” doesn’t own photons or electrons, so we should be able to make all the copies of their movie we want without paying them for it.

    On the other hand, without patent protection for technology, we wouldn’t have microwave ovens, or TV’s, or cell phones, or the computer and Internet you used to submit your comment.

    So, you are correct (in my unofficial, non-binding estimation), Monsanto does not own seeds, but it owns the technology the seeds contain. If you can find some way to remove Monsanto’s technology from the seeds, you might make a lot of money!

  8. John Q Says:

    There is also a good discussion of this topic at
    http://blog.monsantoblog.com/2009/06/19/seed-patent-history/

  9. Ellen Says:

    We’re becoming a nation of borrowers and renters and in turn giving up rights and power.

    There may be issues of ethics regarding the use of these seeds, but the model itself raises ethical questions that are answered nicely in marketing materials, but have not been debated in the interest of the public.

  10. Ewan Ross Says:

    Ellen – regarding the ethics of the model – it would seem to me that this would be a good starting point for a discussion around the matter – which ethical questions concern you (I appreciate that you separate the ethical questions regarding the use of transgenics per-se and the ethical concerns around the patenting/seed saving issue as the two need not neccesarily go hand in hand)

  11. Jody Says:

    It comes down to a contractual agreement. If a farmer signs a document that he/she will not save seeds, and they break that agreement, they are subject to penalty.

    The majority of farmers are willing to pay the prices for seed every year because it is a superior product that maximizes yields.

    I agree also that it is not fair to expect a monsanto perspective from a farmer. They are businessmen. They rightly display a businessman’s perspective.

  12. John Q Says:

    Just so we’re all clear, patented seed and seed saving are NOT exclusively GM concerns. MOST of the commercial seed these days is hybrid seed, and will not “breed true” in the second generation anyway. By buying hybrid seed, the farmers almost require themselves to buy new seed the next year, or they risk uneven performance from their saved seed. Using non-hybrid seed risks (likely assures) lower performance, but allows seed saving, assuming an agreement hasn’t been signed to the contrary.

  13. Terry Bussoletti Says:

    What about the issue of cross contamination. One farmer plants patented monsanto seed, another farms organically with heirloom seed, and his crop is contaminated by the monsanto seed. Is it true that monsanto will sue the non monsanto farmer for saving seeds and planting them the next year, even though he never signed any agreement or purchased any monsanto seed?

  14. Ewan Ross Says:

    Terry – only if the farmer is aware of the contamination and knowingly saves the monsanto seeds. (for instance by destroying his heirloom crop with roundup, harvesting the seeds from the surviving plants (which anyone with any knowledge of agriculture would have to know contained the RR trait), and then using this seed specifically to plant the next years crop)

  15. Chidi Says:

    Critics cannot pull down agricultural biotechnology. Monsanto is the key to sustainable agriculture.


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