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Monsanto is the world’s largest seed company and owns over 80% of all the genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) seeds planted around the world.
Monsanto could soon be bought by the pesticide company Bayer in a record-breaking $66bn takeover. The deal would create the world’s biggest seeds and pesticides company. The new company would control 31% of the world’s commercial seed market and 26% of agricultural pesticides. But this mega-merger needs to be approved by regulators around the world, including in Canada. Click here for more information and action.
- Stop the Mega-Mergers: Write to Canada’s Competition Bureau
- Local people are organizing a « March Against Monsanto » – organize or participate in a March Against Monsanto on May 20 – so far, events are listed in BC (Golden, Kelowna, Penticton, Vancouver, Vernon), Alberta (Athabasca) NS (Halifax), Ontario (Brantford, Timmins, Toronto, Toronto, Windsor) and in Quebec (Montréal, St-Georges-de-beauce, Thetford Mines). See here for links to these events.
- New! Flyer for the March Against Monsanto – print and distribute this flyer at your local march.
On April 18, 2017 five legal experts delivered their advisory opinion in the International Monsanto Tribunal. The Tribunal heard testimony from 28 witnesses from across the world and concluded that Monsanto has engaged in practices which have negatively impacted the right to a healthy environment, the right to health, and that Monsanto’s conduct is negatively affecting the right to freedom indispensible for scientific freedom.The Tribunal also assessed that international law should assert the protection of the environment and the crime of ecocide and concluded that, “if such a crime of ecocide were recognized in international criminal law, the activities of Monsanto could possibly constitute a crime of ecocide. Several of the company’s activities may fall within this infraction such as…the large-scale use of dangerous agrochemicals in industrial agriculture; and the engineering, production, introduction and release of genetically engineered crops.” Read the advisory opinion.
Press Release – September 15, 2016: Bayer’s Takeover of Monsanto Triggers Anti-Competition Fears: Groups in Canada request Competition Bureau review
Monsanto Quick Facts
- is the largest seed company in the world (since 2005) and controls 26% of the world’s commercial seed market
- controls over 57% of the US cotton seed market. (ETC Group)
- owns the seed planted on over 80% of the GE crop acres in the world
- sells the top selling global herbicide Roundup (glyphosate)
- owns the patent and research on Terminator technology (since Monsanto bought the company Delta & Pine Land in 2006). (Terminator seeds are genetically engineered to be sterile after first harvest to stop farmers from saving and reusing seed. There is a UN moratorium on using Terminator seeds.)
In the 1980s, Monsanto began to transform itself from a chemical company into a seed company buy acquiring several other small and large seed companies, and investing a large amount of money into genetic engineering (also called genetic modification or GM), in particular into developing GM herbicide-tolerant crops that were paired with its own glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup. In 1998, Monsanto bought DeKalb Genetics Corporation, which accounted for about 11% of U.S. corn seed sales that year; in 2005, it bought the world’s largest vegetable and fruit seed company, Seminis; in 2006 it bought another six US seed companies. For background and details see Monsanto: A Corporate Profile, Food & Water Watch US, May 2013.
Risks of Monsanto’s « SmartStax » Eight-Trait GM Corn Remain Unexamined
Health effects of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in many herbicides sold across the world, including Monsanto’s formulation brand « Roundup » which is twinned with its GM Roundup Ready crops.
Independent scientific studies are underscoring the call for an urgent reassessment of glyphosate and its related products. These studies associate exposure to glyphosate with a number of negative effects on human and animal health, including long term or chronic effects:
- Birth defects in the Argentinean state of Chaco, where GM soya and rice crops are heavily sprayed with glyphosate, increased nearly fourfold over the years 2000 to 2009. Similar defects were also found in woman from Paraguay exposed to glyphosate-based herbicides during pregnancy. These defects were compatible with those induced in laboratory experiments at much lower concentrations than normal commercial glyphosate concentrations.
- Glyphosate is a suspected endocrine disruptor. This means it could disrupt production of vital reproductive hormones, such as progesterone and oestrogen. Published studies demonstrate various endocrine effects in animals and human cells associated with glyphosate.
- Studies of illness patterns human populations (epidemiological studies) have linked glyphosate exposure to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a type of blood cancer) whilst laboratory studies have confirmed that glyphosate and/or its associated products exhibit characteristics typical of cancer causing agents (i.e. genotoxicity or mutagenicity) in animals and both human and animal. Together, these studies suggest that glyphosate may contribute to cancer. Evidence that glyphosate may also affect the nervous system and may even be implicated in Parkinson’s disease.
June 2011: Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark? The report concludes that industry and European regulators knew as long ago as the 1980s-1990s that Roundup, the world’s best selling herbicide, causes birth defects but they failed to inform the public. Authored by a group of international scientists and researchers. Published: Earth Open Source, June 2011. The report shows:
- Industry (including Monsanto) has known from its own studies since the 1980s that glyphosate causes malformations in experimental animals at high doses.
- Industry has known since 1993 that these effects also occur at lower and mid doses.
- The German government has known since at least 1998 that glyphosate causes malformations.
- The EU Commission’s expert scientific review panel knew in 1999 that glyphosate causes malformations.
- The EU Commission has known since 2002 that glyphosate causes malformations. This was the year it signed off on the current approval of glyphosate.
Lawsuits: Monsanto vs. Farmers
2013: The U.S. Supreme Court in Bowman vs. Monsanto unanimously ruled that farmers cannot replant patented genetically engineered (GE) seed as it violates licensing agreements. This means that farmers must pay industry giants like Monsanto for seed each growing season, sealing the agribusiness giant’s quest to fundamentally alter the nature of farming. This ruling is a blow to farmers who have been persecuted by Monsanto for ‘trespassing’ on patent rights due to saving seed or the contamination of fields by genetic drift of GE material. Read the story here.
(This case was not successful in court) March 29, 2011: Over 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations in Canada and the US, including Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds Ltd. of Parkside Saskatchewan in Canada, filed a lawsuit against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified (GM) seed. The plaintiffs were forced to sue pre-emptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s GM seed.
- Press Release, March 30, 2011: Farmers and Seed Distributors Sue Monsanto to Protect Themselves from Patents on GM Seed
- Arguments filed: Court case document
November 2009: Monsanto has sued four Ontario farmers for saving and reusing Monsanto’s patented herbicide tolerant soybeans called Roundup Ready. Not only did the courts rule that the farmers must pay Monsanto any profits they derived from growing the soybeans, they must also pay a significant portion of Monsanto’s costs for taking them to court — amounts ranging from $9,000 to $63,000 per individual. As well, the four farmers are among the first to be confronted with Monsanto’s new “Violator Exclusion Policy”. They will be placed on an “Unauthorized Grower List” and denied all access to Monsanto’s current and future technologies forever. Monsanto calls this “Seed Piracy.” Click here to see Monsanto’s October 2009 Seed Piracy Newsletter
Report: Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers, Center for Food Safety, 2005 Monsanto has filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers in 25 states that involve 147 farmers and 39 small businesses or farm companies. Monsanto has set aside an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.
Haiti’s Farmers Reject Monsanto’s Seed « Donation »
10,000 Haitian peasant farmers marched Friday June 4, 2010 to protest Monsanto’s donation of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds.
The farmers asked groups around the world to “Struggle Against Monsanto and its associates.”
Union Paysanne, Action SOS Haiti, and the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network called on people in Montreal to gather outside the Haitian Consulate to express solidarity with Haitian peasant groups who are rejecting Monsanto’s donation of hybrid corn seeds. A delegation delivered a letter to the Haitian consulate in support of the farmers’ concerns and met with the Consul General for half an hour.
Solidarity actions were called for by the Haitian Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) and supported by La Via Campesina.
Chavannes Jean-Baptist of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) in Haiti called Monsanto’s donation “a new earthquake.” MPP called on all of Haiti’s farmers to burn Monsanto’s seeds. “If people start sending us hybrid seeds that’s the end of Haitian agriculture,” said Chavannes.
So far, Monsanto has said that the donated corn seeds are not genetically modified but are hybrids, which means that they may not be suitable for replanting in the subsequent seasons. By cultivating Monsanto’s corn, Haitian peasant farmers will be forced to make annual purchases of seeds.
After the earthquake, much of Haiti’s seed stocks were used to help feed people who fled to rural areas from devastated towns and cities. In a message to Haitian farmers, Chavannes said, “Monsanto is taking advantage of the earthquake…to open the country’s doors to this powerful company. We cannot accept this.”
- Press Release June 3: Haitian Farmers Say “Burn Monsanto’s Seeds”: Canadian groups support Haitian rejection of Monsanto’s seed donation
- Read the call for solidarity from the Haitian peasant movement
- Read the article about what Haiti’s peasant leaders are saying
- Read what Monsanto says about their « donation ».
Other News on Monsanto
November 23, 2010: University students protest new $12 million Monsanto Canola Breeding Centre at the University of Manitoba. Press Release: Saying No to Monsanto in Manitoba
July 2010: Monsanto joins BASF for GM wheat development: Monsanto and BASF Plant Science are expanding joint biotech development work into wheat, potentially bringing GM wheat to market — at least 10 years from now. The companies say they plan to « initially focus on developing biotech products for the North American and Australian markets. » The joint announcement comes on the heels of a separate plan announced by Syngenta and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in April to work toward biotech wheat.
May 17 2010: Monsanto plant in The Netherlands shut down by activists
Action group « Round Up Monsanto » successfully shut down the main Monsanto plant in the Netherlands, formally De Ruiter Seeds. Forty people chained themselves to the entrance gate at the wake of day and prevented personnel from entering the office buildings and greenhouses. Thierry Boyer, head of Monsanto’s European vegetable division, contacted his superiors and decided not to press charges. As a result the police will not interfere. « The company will be effectively closed for the day », the police chief in charge confirmed. 350 people are employed at the plant. Many employees welcomed the action and said they were not happy with the take over of De Ruiter Seeds by Monsanto in 2008.De Ruiter Seeds is the third Dutch vegetable seed company that was bought up by Monsanto. With these acquisitions the company aims to monopolise the vegetable seed market.
Banners on the gates and on the Monsanto logo on the premises said:
« Monopoly on food and toxic agriculture – the world according to Monsanto » and « Imagine…agriculture without poison and without GMO’s – a world without Monsanto ».
April 2010: Monsanto faces farmer resistance to high prices – Company earnings disappoint, scraps target to double profits in 5 years. Monsanto’s second quarter earnings did not match their projections, though the company is still robust (some were expecting worse results). There was a 19% drop in fiscal second quarter earnings. One equities analyst refered to Monsanto’s arrogance as its ambitious growth projections were unrealistic. Farmers are refusing to pay the new high price for Monsanto’s eight trait GE corn « SmartStax » @ $75/bag. Farmers are also refusing to pay high prices for Roundup Ready2 soy. Monsanto’s results have been effected by the fact that their claims to higher yields are not substantiated with third-party data. Monsanto is now reducing its prices including heavily discounting SmartStax. Monsanto calls this « penetration pricing » because it is designed to penetrate the market – gain market share.
March 2010: Monsanto Admits Bt Cotton has Failed in India For the first time anywhere in the world, biotech agriculture giant Monsanto has admitted that insects have developed resistance to its Bt (insect resistant) cotton crop. Evidence was observed by Monsanto from Gujarat province.
February 2010: India has halted the commercial cultivation of what would have been its first GE vegetable crop – eggplant. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said more studies were needed to ensure GE aubergines were safe for consumers and the environment. The GE vegetable received approval from government scientists in 2009 but opposition was widespread: « Public sentiment is negative. It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary, principle-based approach, » Minister Ramesh said.
July 15, 2009: Monsanto has invested in developing new GM wheat. Monsanto bought WestBred, a Montana company specializing in wheat germplasm. Monsanto stated they will now develop new GM wheat varieties. Monsanto’s announcement follows the May statement from industry groups in Australia, Canada and the US stating that they would work together to synchronize commercialization in the three countries. Join the Global Rejection counter statement – sign on here!
May 2009: Monsanto says it expects its U.S. gross profit from sales of seeds and traits to double by 2012 from the 2008 level, while its international businesses should grow by 85 percent. Monsanto says it will launch a « high impact technology product » every one to two years, with the goal that each project will deliver more than $300 million in gross revenue opportunities by 2020 in the country where it is launched. Check the story.
Monsanto now talks about the “world’s growing food, feed, fiber, and fuel needs” (Annual Report 2007). Monsanto stands to gain substantially from the rush to produce fuels from our agricultural base – biofuels (agrofuels) – because the acreage of GE crops could now be expanded to grow fuel as well as food. Monsanto’s major GE crops of corn, canola and soy are all used for ethanol or biodiesel in the current so-called « first generation » biofuels. To counter the public relations problem of the world food crisis and the problem of “food vs fuel” Monsanto with Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM), DuPont, John Deere (Deere and Company) and the Renewable Fuels Association had set up a new lobby group called the “Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy.” Monsanto is looking towards owning the seeds for food and fuel. Click here for more information on agrofuels.
Bovine Growth Hormone
In August 2008 Monsanto sold its controversial and widely rejected recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), a genetically engineered veterinary drug designed to boost milk production in dairy cows, to pharmaceutical company Eli Lily. Rejected in 1999 by regulatory agencies in Canada, BGH is still used in the United States.
Click here to read the book chapter about what happened in Canada to BGH.
Monsanto owns patents on its genetic sequences and enforces its patent rights over these traits by suing farmers it believes have saved and used its seeds without authorization. When farmers buy Monsanto’s seeds they must sign a “Technology Use Agreement”, a contract with Monsanto whereby farmers agree not to save Monsanto’s seed for planting again. Monsanto now owns Terminator technology which would be the perfect tool for the corporation to protect its patents, without the bad public relations of suing farmers (see below).
Click here to see Vandana Shiva describe what patents mean to Monsanto.
Click here to read the report Monsanto vs Farmers from the Center for Food Safety.
Click here to see Percy Schmeiser’s website
• Terminator seeds are genetically engineered to be sterile after first harvest in order to prevent farmers from saving and reusing seed.
• The technology would be the perfect tool for Monsanto to protect its intellectual property without costly legal action against farmers.
• Monsanto recently bought the original patent on Terminator as well as the most advanced research when it purchased the cotton and soybean seed company Delta & Pine Land.
• In 1999, when Monsanto was first preparing to buy Delta & Pine Land, the Rockefeller Foundation wrote a letter to Monsanto pleading the company to disavow Terminator. Monsanto responded with a pledge never to commercialize Terminator. However Monsanto never pledged to stop research.
• The technology has never been field tested or commercialized but when Monsanto bought Delta & Pine Land in 2007, the company had the most advanced Terminator research in the world including greenhouse tests in the US.
• Due to international protest, a moratorium on Terminator seed field testing and commercial use was established at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2000, and strengthened in 2006.
• For details on Terminator click here to see the website of the International Ban Terminator Campaign.
Though fruits and vegetables remain, for the most part, free of genetic engineering (some GE squash and papaya varieties have been commercialized), Monsanto now owns a large part of the fruit and vegetable seed market. In 2005 Monsanto bought fruit and vegetable company Seminis, giving Monsanto control over more than 30 percent of the North American vegetable seed market, as well as more than 20 percent of the world’s tomato seed market and more than 30 percent of the global hot pepper seed market. (Monsanto To Buy Vegetable Seed Company, Carey Gillam, Reuters, April 1, 2008) Seminis had already developed a genetically engineered virus resistant squash (their online catalogue includes GE varities of yellow crookneck and straightneck, zucchini) – Seminis’ squash is currently the only GE vegetable on the market. In 2007 Monsanto formed the International Seed Group, a holding company to invest in vegetable and fruit seed businesses. And in early in 2008 Monsanto bought De Ruiter Seeds Group BV for $860 million – the company sells tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and other produce that grow in greenhouses.