Ask Us Anything About GMOs!

Should the public be concerned with the business tactics your company employs? I.e. patenting seeds ,law suits against small farms and what seems to be a monopoly type business strategy.

A:Expert Answer

The public certainly has a right to be aware of and engage on issues that they feel affect them, including how their food is grown.  As mentioned in our five core principles, our companies respect your right to ask for this information and to receive factual answers.  It’s the primary reason we created this web site, to enable a conversation between us, hopefully lessening any concern in the process.


More specific to the issues you’ve listed, a few company and independent experts have already answered similar questions on the website.  After taking a look at these responses, please let us know if you still have additional questions.


Patents on seeds: (Professor Drew Kershen, University of Oklahoma, College of Law)


“In the United States, plant breeders can own intellectual property in seeds and plants through each of the legally protected property rights ­ plant patents, trade secrets, trademarks, plant variety certificates, and utility patents. Farmers purchase seeds from local seed dealers and farmers then own the seeds for the purposes of producing a harvest. But the farmer does not own the intellectual property in the seed or growing crop...


This is no different than a person who purchases a movie CD. The person owns the movie CD but the person does not own the intellectual property in the CD. Consequently, the person cannot legally make a copy of the movie CD.

After reading this far, a person might ask, ‘Why does the United States law recognize these various forms of intellectual property?’ US law creates and supports intellectual property because intellectual property provides the incentive for innovation by allowing the inventor an IPR (legally protected property right). Using the IPR, the inventor can recover the research and development costs that went into inventing the new, useful innovation. Seed companies spend years (average of about 13 years) and millions of dollars per new seed variety to produce a new, useful seed variety.”


Lawsuits against small farmers: (Jane Stautz, Dow AgroSciences)


“This is a question that we’ve seen several times on GMO Answers, and a misperception that we’d very much like to correct. None of our companies has ever sued a farmer when trace amounts of our patented seeds or traits were present in the farmer’s field as an accident or as a result of inadvertent means ­ such as through cross pollination. As an industry, we support all forms of agriculture regardless of farm size, ownership or philosophy.”


Monopoly type business strategy: (Tom Helscher, Monsanto Company)


“While there is variability in the specific market share data in any given year, if you look at the trend of the corn seed Monsanto sells, our brands would be roughly one-third of the market. Globally, while Monsanto is one of the largest commercial seed companies, what we offer is less than five percent of the world's seeds.”

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