Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Future of Food - Part I

If you need a reason to despise Monsanto, then watch this movie. It will grind your crackers. It will make you sick to your stomach. It will bring a tear to your eye.

The Future of Food, brings into high relief how our accessibility to seed stock is becoming constricted as agricultural companies genetically modify seeds (GMO) and then claim ownership to that species. As these GMOs mingle with other non-GMO seeds, a new seed is born, and now companies (primarily Monsanto) can claim ownership over that new seed. Even if the GMO seed contaminates a farmer's fields inadvertently, by patent law, it is owned by Monsanto.

One of the big problems is that Monsanto has bought up many seed companies over the years, making it the largest conventional seed company in the world. And, effectively, they now own much of the seed stock out there. So, instead of seed saving from year to year, as farmers have done for centuries, many farmers must now pay Monsanto for these combined seeds or face being sued.

You see, Monsanto likes to go after small and mid-size farmers for patent infringement. They test the farmer's crops and accuse them of patent infringement when they find that their genetically modified seed has contaminated these farmer's fields. Over the last few years, 9,000 letters have been sent out to farmers from Monsanto. Most of the farmers choose to pay in order to avoid lawsuits.

At the filming of this movie there were 100 active lawsuits in US alone. For those that settle, the farmers have to agree to never discuss their settlement. Many farmers believe that they are profiled by the size of their farm so they can be made an example of. And this scares other farmers into not saving their own seed. Those farmers that do fight often spend their entire retirement money - up to $200,000 for one family.

To better explain, if Monsanto's GMO seed gets cross-pollinated into your crops, no matter how it got there (via wind, bird droppings, blowing off a truck, whatever) Monsanto now owns that seed. It now belongs to Monsanto based on current patent law. Even if you don't want it in your field.

So, for a more personal example, let's say I own 15 acres of land on which I grow organic heirloom soybeans. Soybeans that have been grown on my land for the last 5 generations by my ancestors, with seed stock they brought with them from the old country and are now perfectly adapted to my land.

Now, let's say my next door neighbor (we'll call him Soylent Greenpa) grows Round-up Ready soybeans, a GMO crop developed by Monsanto that is resistant to the herbicide, Roundup.

Because the wind tends to blow from west to east and his crops are west of mine, my soybean crops get contaminated with his GMO soybeans. I take my now contaminated crops (unbeknownst to me) and save the seeds. Thousands of them. And I grow a whole new crop of soybeans with them. Monsanto can legally sue me for damages since I am now not only illegally growing "their" soybeans, but since they also own all the seed I have saved.

As an extreme example, most of the canola fields in Western Canada are now contaminated by Monsanto's GMO seed and the farmers are facing this very problem of patent infringement.

Next up, Part 2 of The Future of Food.

Disclaimer: This review is my account of the movie and may be highly fraught with inaccuracies. If you have any comment to add or to help clarify, please feel free.

21 comments:

Anna @ Blue Dirt said...

It's pretty accurate to what I took out of the movie. What's more scary is that soon all the seeds will be contaminated and they would have a monopoly on seeds to grow food that isn't good for us. Support companies like Seed Savers Exchange.

Elizabeth said...

Monsanto gives me rage blackouts. RAAAAAAAAAGE. I know it's not nice to wish harm or joblessness on others, but I seriously wish the whole damn corporation would go down in flames.

Mary said...

It seems to me, though, that the issue isn't so much Monsanto being evil or not, but rather the concept that patent law allows for this type of proprietary ownership, despite unintentional cross-pollnation.

Roz said...

I agree with Mary. These GMOs cross pollinating with crops on somebody else's land should be considered trespassing and illegal. I've spoken about this to other (non-peak oil/sustainability) people and they are shocked that Monsanto wins these cases. Does Monsanto win because it has the big money, time, and lawyers to pursue it? If so, we need a huge public discussion to inform the masses about this...I'd like to think a lot of folks would get outraged about seeds invading their property and then the owners getting penalized for that. Or else change those patent laws!

I feel so weak and helpless against this kind of monster.

Alison Russell said...

My impression is that the cases that do come to court end up being dropped/settled because the farmers run out of money, not because there's no merit to their case. Monsanto's pockets are deep enough that they can afford endless rounds of delays, extensions, etc. It's a War of Attrition. I think we need a non-profit group of expert retired lawyers who are willing to take on these cases pro bono as a public service. We only need one farmer to win to start setting a precedent!

adventuresindinner said...

It is frightening how long Monsanto has been pulling this sort of garbage and how relatively quiet they have been keeping it. I remember a story about a farmer in Saskatchewan at least 15 years ago and it was only mentioned in passing on CBC.

Kristina said...

I don't know much about legal issues. But, I'm wondering if a class action lawsuit against Monsanto by US would be possible. We are effected by their GMOs cross-pollination with non-GMOs. By them suing all the small farms that are trying to grow non-GMOs, and by taking non-GMOs out of the marketplace, they are keeping us from being able to purchase and consume non-GMOs.

Unfortunately, until we can PROVE harm, we wouldn't have legal standing. And, I'm afraid, at that point, it may be too late.

Jennifer @ Fast, Cheap, and Good said...

Yeah, this pretty much gives me blind rages too, but ultimately nature's law superceeds patent law. Monsanto (or any other big company) can't sue *everyone*, and it is up to us to continue to save seeds and allow nature to help us develop breeds for our own microclimates.

Anonymous said...

I have not seen this particular movie, but I have followed the Monsanto bully machine.

I'm just wondering, anyone here a lawyer that can provide insight on a class action lawsuit by farmers against Monsanto. One by one farmers cannot fight the giant, but what about together?

Perhaps I'm dreaming, with Clarence Thomas being on the Supreme Court protecting the Monsanto interests.

Greenpa said...

Hey now!!! Look, a little teasing is fine- but- you might want to make it clear that I'm totally on the other side of this situation from Monsanto... to the extent my entire life revolves around this whole global food supply thing...

hm. though. Until you come and visit, you probably are not really aware of how very much that's true...

Crunchy Chicken said...

I think attacking the issue from the "change the laws" standpoint is probably the only way that Monsanto will stop this nonsense. It's ridiculous that they have so many patent rights when it comes to their seeds. If their GMO seeds are infecting someone else's crops, the farmer should be suing them, not the other way around.

Greenpa - Oh, yes, I do know. I just like to push your buttons. You should know that by now.

Greenpa said...

Crunchy Chickie- "Oh, yes, I do know. I just like to push your buttons. You should know that by now."

yes, >I< certainly do. But I'm a little concerned about your thousands upon thousands of readers, who may not be entirely up on your button pushing fetish.

I'm lookin atchya all squinty-eyed, here.

:-)

work my fingers to the bone, and whaddo I get?

The bony finger!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpa - Do you want me to "out" your true identity :) Anyway, I don't think anyone is going to confuse you with Charlton Heston.

Greenpa said...

"Anyway, I don't think anyone is going to confuse you with Charlton Heston."

heartless wench. And here I was going all squinty just so people would.

:-P

Crunchy Chicken said...

Ha! I didn't understand your squinty-eyed reference. I just thought you were giving me the stink eye.

E said...

"Beans produce perfect, self-pollinating flowers. Cross pollination by insects is possible but rare as pollination occurs before the flower opens." /www.seedsave.org/

So beans are a poor example of a plant that would be pollinated by wind.

Why not use Percy Schmeiser as an example of a real farmer whose crop was contaminated by monsanto? http://www.percyschmeiser.com/

Dmarie said...

every time I'm tempted to buy one of my nostalgic comfort foods, brown sugar Pop-Tarts (embarrassing but true), I think of that movie & walk on by!!

Anonymous said...

The problem that started this whole thing is that "life" was allowed to be patented in the first place. Nobody should have the ability to own the rights to any species of life. Period. I get rage blackouts when I think about this, too. Then I get get so deeply troubled, because the writing is on the wall. It's not just about Monsanto claiming ownership, what troubes me the most is that there is no stopping this process of contamination. How can I possibly protect my crops so that they remain uncontaminated? I can't and there is nothing I can do to stop this monster.
Debbie

J said...

I've read about this stuff and it's crazy to begin with, but I'll have to watch the movie and see if they add anything. I mean crazy that Monsanto and friends get away with this stuff of course. What in your opinion is the best way to oppose this kind of thing? Not buy anything made with their products/crops? I don't know what kind of public outcry it would take to get the government to do anything as they're bedfellows with business. Sigh.

Mimi said...

Why not an attack on ALL fronts. 1) Boycott Monsanto Products (j's idea) 2) Have lawyers work to change patent law (Mary's Idea) 3) class action lawsuit on behalf of the famers....I see the agrument as tresspassing...the seeds are deem a species...so post the sign and sue...but everyone work together 4)Support companies like Seed Savers Exchange 5) Connect with other counties and have them do the seem...6) grow your owns veggies as much as possible...no one can protect themselves on all fronts

Mimi said...

Oh I forgot...educate the uneducated...when people really know whats up...they tend to have range blackouts too and want to help...secretsy (sp) is their biggest weapon

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