My friend Matt DiScenna is back again with his thoughts on the recent Monsanto litigation:
With the Farmers vs. Monsanto lawsuit starting to garner the attention of foodies and farmers nationwide, it’s worth taking a look behind the scenes. Monsanto’s meteoric rise to the top of the food chain has been aided by a clever (albeit shrewd) legal strategy. They have pioneered the practice of patenting genetically modified seeds, giving themselves the sole legal right to use seed varieties that are concocted in their laboratories. These patents have been enforced in courts throughout the country against farmers whose fields have been found to contain seeds patented by Monsanto – even if brought to the field by the uncontrollable forces of wind or pollinators.This legal strategy has contributed in no small part to Monsanto’s startling growth despite the PR nightmare it has inspired. Emotionally-charged ethical and ecological issues aside, it is prime time to steal a trick or two from one of the agribusiness Goliaths.
As demand for local, clean food continues to increase, it will be to the benefit of farmers and local food entrepreneurs to develop legal and business strategies that will foster continued growth and stability for the local food economy. Such action will have the collective effect of cementing local foods into our economic framework and ensuring that it’s not just a short-lived trend. One option is for farmers to partner with processors or other value-added producers through mutually beneficial contracts. Such partnerships create jobs, publicity and most importantly, a fluid transfer of goods and cash between farmer and producer upon which both can rely. Another possibility is the development of agricultural cooperatives, through which resources and markets can be shared.
Opportunities abound for the formation of effective legal and business strategies that can create alternatives to monocultural row crop production. Developing these alternatives is the best long term strategy to rob Monsanto of its farmer customers. While many will be closely following the Farmers vs. Monsanto court case (myself included), it is worth considering that much can be accomplished outside the courtroom, as well, to begin to chip away at the Monsanto machine.