Monsanto, the Government, Monopoly Claims

The film states a Supreme Court decision involving plant patents was written by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who once worked for Monsanto. The film suggests the decision was influenced by Thomas’ previous employment with Monsanto.

The case in question was Pioneer Hi-Bred International v. J.E.M Ag Supply and involved a Monsanto competitor. Monsanto was not a party to that case.

Clarence Thomas worked for Monsanto for a few years but has not been employed by Monsanto since the 1970s, long before the company was involved in biotechnology or owned a seed business.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Pioneer v. J.E.M. upheld the ruling of the appeals and lower court decisions that plants are indeed subject to patent protection under U.S. patent law. The Supreme Court agreed with both lower courts.

While Justice Thomas indeed wrote the majority opinion, this was a 6-2 decision. Justice Thomas was joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist, and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Souter and Ginsberg – none of whom have or had any association with Monsanto. Justices Breyer and Stevens dissented, and Justice O’Connor did not participate in the decision.

In short, while one former Monsanto employee was involved in a Supreme Court case to which Monsanto was not a party, the decision in that case merely confirmed the substantial prior case law and U.S. Patent Office precedent to the effect that plants are subject to patent protection under U.S. law.

Farmers have the option not to purchase biotech seed and also have the option not to purchase seed from Monsanto.

  • One choice is to purchase organic seeds. Advocates for organic farming claim consumer demand for organics is on the rise, and there is some reliable data to support that claim. The global market for organic food and beverages was worth $22.75 billion in 2007, after more than doubling in five years, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. The United States accounted for about 45 percent of that total. (Source: "How green is my wallet?", Reuters, 01/28/2009).  This apparent increase in demand could lead to even more growth in the organic seed market, and thereby even more choice for organic farmers.
  • Farmers could also choose to purchase conventional, non-organic seed.  Farmers can purchase seed from over 200 different seed companies, many of which sell both conventional and biotech seed. In addition, Monsanto will produce conventional seed for farmers who desire to order it from Monsanto.
  • Finally, farmers who want the benefits of biotech seed, but want to purchase their seed from a company other than Monsanto, have that option as well. Biotech seed is available from more than 200 different seed companies. In addition, some of the biotech seed available in the marketplace contains traits developed by companies other than Monsanto – such as DuPont, Syngenta, Dow and others.

Monopoly Claims - over 90% of soybeans in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented gene.

Authorities approved the commercialization of biotechnology applied to soybean seeds in 1996, and many farmers waited to purchase the technology until they saw how it performed the first few years. Farmers are businesspeople who choose seeds that will provide them with the best yield and highest profit. The Roundup Ready soybean technology delivered excellent results and proved to be extremely popular with farmers. As a result, thousands of farmers decided it was in their best financial interest to make the switch from conventional soybean seeds to Roundup Ready soybean seeds.

As farmer demand for Roundup Ready soybeans increased, Monsanto made the technology available to more than 200 other seed companies – so farmers can access the technology from a multitude of other companies.  In addition, and in light of the clear popularity of the technology with farmers, many of Monsanto’s competitors have developed or are developing other biotech products for soybeans.