Cropchoice Opinion ...
Patent Baloney: It's Monsanto, of Course!
(13 July - Cropchoice Opinion) -- Poor Monsanto! First the company cultivates such a rotten public image that it almost decides to commit hari-kari on its own name. Then the company gets sold at a bargain price and the new owners, to protect their investment from the GMO mess, move to separate the unattractive ag division from the rest of the company.
Now that everybody knows Roundup is cheaper - a lot cheaper - in Argentina than the US, the company wants American farmers to believe that it is the victim. This time it's not the activists or billion dollar payouts taking over seed companies, Monsanto says American farmers should blame Argentine patent law and farming's oldest tradition for the fact that US producers are paying 25-100% more for RR soybeans than their competition.
Baloney! As if Monsanto, with the full diplomatic force of the world's most powerful government behind it, is powerless to decide where, when, and how to sell its own products. Monsanto pushed hard to develop a big market share for Roundup in Argentina. It spent millions of your tech fee dollars buying Argentine seed companies. Monsanto chooses to stay in Buenos Aires, and chooses to sell biotech seed there for less. If Monsanto didn't think Argentina was important to making money, it would be packing its bags.
Blame the Government Say you're Presidente in Argentina. Monsanto shows up hot to sell biotech. Monsanto hopes that if you say yes, then GMOs in Argentina will create pressure for other countries, like Brazil, allow them too. Of course Monsanto knows that Argentine farmers like to save seed. The company didn't forget to do its marketing homework - it surely worked up the numbers and looked at the law (which allows seed saving), and knew this might happen. But, Monsanto apparently reasoned, better to get in fast than to worry too much about fairness to American farmers.
But the plan didn't work. Consumers, governments, and many farmers don't like biotech the way Monsanto expected. The cheap market for RR in Argentina is Monsanto's creation, and word has gotten out. So Monsanto tries to pressure Argentina to pass a US-style patent law. You're the president: Monsanto is demanding that you enact a law to let it, a foreign company, massively jack up the price of the same 50 pound bag of soybean seed that it has been selling to your farmers for years. From about $15 to $30. And, of course, Monsanto wants you to send prosecutors after farmers in order to protect its profits.
You'd be crazy - or very, very heavily pressured - to say yes. It wouldn't be levelling the playing field, it would be political suicide. And for farmers just over the border in Brazil, seed prices doubling looks like another good reason to stay non-GMO.
Blame Farmers Strategy two to explain away the pricing problem is to say that it's farmers' fault. Farmers are always to blame for company problems. Monsanto, and the US government, say those pesky seed savers are responsible. As if replanting - the practice that created agriculture in the first place - was some sort of morally reprobate activity. It's not "black market", it's common sense. It's also selection and breeding. And, in many cases, it is completely legal.
Blame Argentine farmers for being smart and looking out for themselves. What else could you expect?
The real reason why Argentine farmers have a price advantage is that Monsanto got greedy and fumbled. Now if they'd just admit as much to American farmers. The pricing problem that needs to be corrected isn't in Argentina. It's the costs and contracts that Monsanto is getting away with here in the US.