I've written extensively about genetically modified organisms (GMOS). Farmers are essentially giving up the wheel to corporate entities that research, develop, and mass produce seeds. But a recent story on NPR brings to light how rigorous seed licensing is sticking it to the farmer, or their wallet for that matter.Monsanto has figured out a system by which the company can take its customers for what they're worth, literally. Once farmers use Monsanto's Roundup Ready, which is a line of designer genetically-modified seeds, they have to continue to purchase the seeds year after year because it's illegal, yes illegal, for farmers to save seeds. Last year alone the cost of these seeds went up 50 percent.
And it's not like Monsanto is hurting for profits. In fact, currently the company controls 75 percent of the entire seed marketplace with four other companies, including Dupont, Syngenta, and Groupe Limagrain. Monsanto is currently going head to head with Dupont for the biggest piece of the seed industry pie.
The Roundup Ready seeds immunize plants against Roundup, which is a powerful herbicide also made by Monsanto. Farmers can then readily apply Roundup to kill everything but the immunized seeds. Using the poison and immunized seeds creates a cycle similar to a drug addiction. Once the seeds are planted, farmers have to come back to Monsanto for more because the powerful herbicide has basically killed everything in its path. Monsanto's Roundup Ready corn crops and herbicide resistant soybean crops have also wreaked havoc on our agricultural system by causing soil erosion, nitrate leeching, and water contamination.
Monsanto's Bargaining Power
More than 9 out of 10 soybean seeds carry the Roundup Ready trait. It's the same for cotton and just a little lower for corn, according to the article. That gives Monsanto complete control over seed companies because no seed company could survive without selling Round Up Ready Seeds. With a monopoly on the industry the company can increase prices as the addiction becomes stronger. In the end, this cycle will hurt farmers who depend on the seeds because farmers can't risk the litigation that would ensue should they replant the seeds. So year after year, no matter the cost, farmers are forced to continually line Monsanto's pockets.