Global Seed Cartels Are Wrong
| Situation | Three global seed corporations are together dividing the global seed market among themselves. They follow the following internal global division model: If you don’t do our crops, we’ll not do your crops. All the seed trade of the commercial crops of the world will be in their hands within 5 years as all existing seed companies are bought up in rapid speed by one of those three. Central in their business model is the terminator technology (making seeds sterile, so that it only can produce one harvest) of which one of them (Monsanto) holds the patent and which has licensed this to the other two. The other two are just the ‘external dependents’ of Monsanto as their business model is total non valid without this terminator technology. This makes the combo of those three a text book example of a cartel, with Monsanto in the leading role. This alone is already fully against http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman_Antitrust_Act, who is installed to prevent such cartels and such cartel leaderships. Cartels are good for the owners, but bad for the rest of us. Their basis nature is that they privatize profits and socialize costs. This cartel is not primarily seeds driven, but mainly DNA patents driven. Making them not about market power only, but also placing the legal system behind them too. Seed cartels are about patents. Filling as many patents as possible (also on nature DNA) and enforcing the IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) on that patents. Seed cartels are not about innovation, but about ‘rights’ and lawyers. Any corporation seeking to establish a cartel confesses an public that they’re not that good in innovation and therefore in competition in a normal open equal playing field.
| Dangers | But there are even more/other issues on top of this cartel issue: Thinks like patenting natural seed and DNA characteristics and attached to this transferring them out of the public domain into the private domain (making counter evidence of natural origin of DNA in seed banks important, but those are closed everywhere in rapid speed). Things like pricing (a monopolist can ask any price as there is no competition: we are creating a nothing contributing elephant in the price room of our food chain). Things like power: Which nations are allowed to use the seeds, which nations are cut of the seed supply (like is done with Iran regarding the Swift system), who decides this (as the patent owners can do this by themselves), placing the DNA of the global food system out of the public domain into private hands makes food to global weapon in geopolitics, in geoeconomics and geomilitary. Also thinks like new crop variations that doesn’t ‘play by the rules’ and can not be targeted by any solution we know now. Thinks like systematic risks (if one of those three technological fails, the world misses one commercial crop, if the terminator technology fails the world is without any commercial crop (or if the terminator technology spreads: the world is without crops at all). The key question is: do we want a world where the global food system is determined by only three companies (companies who haven’t a very nice/clean reference too).
| Performance | Cartels don’t have a passion for innovation. Their passion is control. Cartels have historical proven to be even innovation repressing (as innovation threatens their control). Seed cartels contribute nothing (as in: nothing) extra to the food chain. All that high yields stuff is just marketing bla bla bla: From a similar value as that using a certain deodorant brand will bring instant bus loads of cover girls to your door: marketing is just marketing: Don’t believe the commercial driven make believes. The only higher yield they are interested in is the yield for their shareholders, not of the farmers, nor of the global food system. Contrary effects are more close to reality. Seed cartels are even slowing down the innovation in the food chain. Cartels use power as tool, not innovation. Buying up competitors, breaking innovation by creating an innovation mono culture.
| Agenda | The agenda of this global seed cartel is not food system improvement, but just food system control, using both buying up competitors for above normal economic performance prices as method and patents as tool for that. They want to establish a model where the (as private parties) can oppose a global tax by patents on the food system. DNA patent focused cartels will improve nothing: they just want control and than a private taxation on food by enforcing of their patent rights. They want a system where they as third parties can milk any profit in / out of the whole food chain dry for themselves. Just letting just enough profit in to each part of the chain that they continue to stay in business, but not a penny more. It’s about the creation of a third party elephant in the global business model, that want to rule all food chain parties their margins. Their business model is becoming able to impose a global food tax on the whole world, using patent legislation.
| Concentration | If there’s one lesson that we all have learned from the financial crisis since 2007 is it that that concentrations sooner or later will lead to system failure with heavy external/public costs. But concentration in the global food system is even more dangerous than in the financial sector. Failed financials can be bailed out with QE (digital money ‘printing’ by the central banks), but food is of a different nature than money: money can digital be created: food not: it has to grow, have the right DNA and it takes time. The financial too big to fail issue has had some severe consequences, still we let a even more concentrated model grow in a sector where bailouts will not change anything if they fail: there just will no food.
| Bad History | All three of them are chemical companies that have a historical record that is a compilation of polluting environments, covering consequences, bribing politicians, bribing judges, etc. They all three have proven in real life to have not that high moral standards as you wish them to have. In street language: they are the bullies on the block. Not the saints they proclaim to be on their websites. PR can shape the public opinion, PR can’t erase the past. The moral ‘DNA’ of those three is not of that high quality. Something to realize when they feed their PR.
| Bio Diversity | This all global commercial crops concentration in these global food cartel, made by these three corporations hits the global food system and nature at large at it’s weakest point: both the global food system as nature has survived all problems in the past due it diversity. Diversity delivers strength / survival. Diversity is the best food security model, delivers the best nature, delivers the best health (biodiversity trains the immune system), it’s the best security for here and now and the future. A global commercial crop seeds/DNA cartel is contrary to this: they aim for global monocultures, based on the same DNA patents. Global monocultures are the best insurance for getting into trouble. As the cartel can’t talk themselves out of this fact by PR, they have gave it a twist: there yields are ‘so high’ (never proven statement, just marketing bla bla bla, but lazy journalists hating reseach, like’s to copy and paste PR sound bytes very much), that less agricultural soil is needed, which ‘guarantees’ bio diversity. How much Orwellian PR you want? The higher yields of those companies, nor better qualities, nor better specifications, nor ‘embedded’ specifications are all PR bla bla bla (see the explosion of the Round-Up resistant weeds, that undermines Monsanto’s core product: the yields of their pesticide Round-Up ready/resistant crops). They are not global food system yield driven, but global food system patent focused. Round Up (the pesticide most GMO crops are resistant for) destroys everything. That’s not bio diversity. How they realize it: on a waste dump of Monsanto near one of their Round Up factories a bacteria was living (the bacteria strange enough was resistant for Round Up). They fired some genes of that bacteria into seeds of the crops they wanted to be resistant for Round Up. As their crops are resistant for Round Up the farmers uses it a lot (which they don’t do if the crop wasn’t resistant for Round Up). This leads to massive Round Up use (double earnings for the global seed cartel: sales of seed patents and sales of chemicals), something that ruins biodiversity significant.
| Systemic Risk | The global seed cartel issue is not only an economic/military power and therefore price/conditions issue, nor about transferring public/natural DNA into the private/proprietary realm, nor about political bribes or farmer blackmailing, nor about health issues, nor about corporatism replacing democracy. It’s mainly about global food security. We all acknowledge the dangers of concentration in the financial sector and the risks attached to it. We’re all aware that one day the ATMs will stay empty and a global financial reboot will bring overnight a non-democratic financial driven government in power that will solve their problems at the cost of others, by just printing even more money (in the existing or in a new currency). We’re all just 3 meals away of hunger, but we will survive a financial system crash. But a financial system crash is just a Sunday’s walk in the park in comparison to a crash of the global food system: food can’t be ‘printed’ like money by just typing some numbers in a computer (as that’s what QE -money printing by the central banks- is). Food is a real life product that has to grow and we will survive to the next harvest, but don’t ask us how that will be. It will be a nightmare. This is the risk of a global seed cartel where three corporations have divided all crops among themselves, delivering one global seed supplier per commercial crop. To make things even worse: all three of them use the Monsanto’s terminator technology to deliver only sterile (only can be used for one harvest) seeds to the market: This gives all the crops delivered by this cartel (as in: all commercial crops of the world) a two tier build-in systemic risk: The first systemic risk: The terminator technology when just doing things quietly different than expected has the potential to create real (not artificial, but real) shortages in seeds, not for a certain crop, but for all crops. The second systemic risk: The terminator technology has the potential to go into nature (seeds ‘don’t stay at home’: that’s how nature works) and make anything sterile by crossing: if this spreads in nature it will deliver a global flora collapse. The end of abundance of flora for quiet sometime. Terminator technology is madness of the highest level (and therefore it delivered huge resistance when introduced, but as these things go: they wait some years and than start to use is without the massive resistance).
| Soft Bribes | As the global seed cartel corporations their core is patent law and patents are time limited and they want to have maximal return on the patents they acquire, they’re always in a hurry to get their patents approved. They bribe anything/anyone to get it fast. Their new policy goes even further: they move legislation towards a no approval in front needed system: making both the ecosystem, the food system and most of all: all people to their live guinea pigs by this. Regardless the health effects. They ‘eat the bananas’ and trow the peels into the public realm (letting the community take care of the medical costs caused by their patents): If there is something we all agree on since the credit crunch is that we all don’t like the privatizing profits and socializing externalities for the public realm. Monsanto is master in revolving door politics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolving_door_%28politics%29): placing their own people in the institutions that must do the oversight on them: creating a situation where ‘the fox is guarding the hen house’. In Japan around Tepco (the nuclear power company) there was a similar ‘revolving door’ system between Tepco and the Japanese political/legislative/oversight realm. We all know the fruits of that by the Fukushima nuclear power station explosions. The Deep Sea Horizon disaster also brought to the surface the revolving door practice in that part of the economy/oversight. See Monsanto’s revolving door strategy in action in for example http://speaklibertynow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/monsanto-and-government-ties1.jpg. The national food safety agencies all around the world are headed by former to Monsanto related people. A textbook example in ‘How to prevent real oversight’. Just do a Google search on Monsanto+FDA or Monsanto+EFSA and you will see who’s in control of the food ‘safety’. As historic example how this all works see the time line on the exploitation of the (now expired) patent on aspertame can be found on http://www.swankin-turner.com/hist.html. De ‘revolving door’ politics (crossovers between regulator and to regulating companies) are nowhere as strong/intensive as in the seed sector. Even Tepco in Japan or Enron in the USA didn’t go so far in this as Monsanto does. The concept of revolving door politics is the end of any serious oversight: it’s about nailing the public interests at broad daylight. It will go on and on, till it’s exposed and dealt with.
| Polluting Legislation | They have tried to realize both in the state and federal realms, but that delivered them a lot of head wind. For example: The current EU proposal written by the cartel and just by copy/paste make into a legislation proposal on ‘certified’ seeds. A piece of legislation that makes it near impossible for new market parties to enter the market and makes it illegal to swap seeds between farmers and even recreational gardeners. Everything for them. That’s the target of a cartel and that’s the direction they guide everything towards. As farmers have to work long days to get a flood, as consumers have to work long days to get the bills paid, the lobbyists of the global seed cartel have each day the whole day to wine and dine with both the senate and congress (of parliaments) and officials in the Administrations and their agencies. Proposing to do the ‘dull’ work for them (by letting their legislation texts be written by top of the bill respectable law firms). Therefore the legislation will never serve the public, nor the farmers, not the food processors, nor the global food brands, but only the global seed cartel and their vassals. This is how ‘making swapping seeds between farmers’ is determined as illegal in concept legislation. It delivers total out of balance legislation. It’s just like photography: it’s the exposure that counts: and lobbyists have the most exposure time. Full access. US government backed (the proof of that can be seen in many entries in the Wikileaks cablegate leaks). What more does a cartel wants of life to achieve their goals. On this moment legislation is written that delivers them the upper hand. Nobody stops them in doing this.
| Polluting Agreements | The global seed cartel is moving towards bypassing any national food safety agency and any national legislation. They use the multilateral trade agreements to realize this. By this they a) out law national control (making national accessing in other nations approved seeds illegal) and b) cut off market access for smaller companies (bury them under a load of regulation they have written and perfectly matches their current operational model). So they moved all their energy is writing the seed paragraphs of the new ‘free’ trade agreements like TAFTA, FTAA, FTAAP, etc (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_free_trade_agreements#Proposed_agreements) and international IPR (intellectual property rights) agreements like ACTA, CISPA, PIPA, SOPA, etc. We all think these IPR agreements are on music piracy, but they aren’t: they are mainly pushed by other parties to protect Monsanto’s interests as a suddenly becoming clear side effect. But even that don’t go that far as they want. Therefore they write and lobby for copy/paste of paragraphs that gives them the right without court order to seize any container with agricultural commodities that they ‘suspect’ to infringe their IPR. By this they have a blackmail tool to get everybody paying their IPR ‘tax’ if the agricultural products contains their DNA or not. No trader in his right mind after having his shipments seized for a long time and having to fight a battery of lawyers of this global cartel will import any agricultural commodity that hasn’t paid the cartel, regardless the content of the shipment. Mob like blackmailing molded into supra national legislation, create far away from any governmental nor parliamentary oversight. That’s your future. Food will become expensive due to this white collared shirt mob practices.
| Polluting Patents | Patent legislation is installed to deliver some protection towards inventors aka give innovation a bonus, to protect the small businesses from the power of the unlimited big corporations. Patent legislation is never meant to be (ab)used as sector power concentration tool, nor as tool to transfer stuff available in the public domain (like natural DNA) into the private/proprietary domain of a global cartel to blackmail any farmer, any food processor, any food trader and any global/national/regional/local food brand.
| Polluting Jurisprudence | The global seed cartel is not only occupying legislation, they also are widening non legislation based jurisprudence in court cases by (ab)using/investing in heavy legal representation (tight connected with the national old boys networks) to out weight anyone they sue for ‘patent infringement’. Jurisprudence is the realm of earlier court decisions, which could be successfully used as legal argument in new court cases. The documentary ‘David versus Monsanto’, which can be found on http://rclvideolibrary.com/2012/11/08/david-versus-monsanto, tells the story how the global seed cartel process of extorting a Canadian farmer with this excessive jurisprudence. He had in his fields GMO weeds that were blown out of a power line strip next to his fields. The global seed cartel (in this case Monsanto) send him based on that an invoice for patent right infringement for the last years. He fight them, he didn’t gave up and at the end (after a decade of fighting the lawyers of this global seed cartel: quiet an achievement/endurance) the court ordered Monsanto to remove their ‘genetic pollution’ of the fields of this farmer. He story can be found on Wikipedia on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percy_Schmeiser. So many people and politicians and judges are yet unknown of this excessive power abuse. More people should see documentaries like for example ‘The world according to Monsanto’ on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fONUvkPPMGY.
| Polluting Trade | By the powers delivered by them in the new trade agreements, the global seed cartel will hurt international food trade severely. As these new trade agreements delivers them the right to seize any container and any food shipment in any harbor or rail port without any court issued order or approval. Then the counter party has to go to court to release his containers/shipments (but will be bankrupted before the end of the long lasting legal fight). Blackmailing powered by new trade agreements, forcing each and anyone to pay ‘their duties’ to the global seed cartel, regardless the content of the containers/shipments: no trader will be able to do free trade, no bank will finance the export and/or import by any by the global seed cartel blacklisted aka not white listed food trade company. Trade will become regulated by this global seed cartel. Just because we let them drive the trade agreements and therefore let them make them just as they want them to be. Trade will decline as small companies will not survive this blackmailing focused legal battles.
| Polluting Communities | Rural communities had always a good social fabric: farmers always supported each other (as they could be the next that needed help sometime in the future). The global seed cartel has destroyed this social fabric by installing anonymous report telephone numbers: you can anonymous blab the patent infringement of others at this telephone numbers. Destroying the business of your neighbor was never so easy (just one anonymous phone call away): the neighbor is within some weeks deep into legal trouble and if he has not the funds to fight this ludicrous claims, you can buy up his fields for pennies at the dollar. A copy of the DDR (DDR 2.0) brought by the global seed cartel to any rural area in your neighborhood.
| Polluting Control | The global seed cartel moves legislation towards an expensive mandatory internal control apparatus that only can be paid by the big players (eliminating each competition of smaller companies: they can’t afford compliance to all this legislation overload). So they can control themselves (as long they produce the wanted paper load, regardless what’s well/not in it). So they use this mandatory compliance overload to eliminate any competition. Cartels are always killing innovation. The global seed cartel is not an exception on that rule. They’ve taken care of no external control for themselves and a mandatory overload of control (which can’t be met by smaller companies) towards others. Being the law has so it’s advantages. It’s sad that this could happen, it tells a lot of the current state of legislation production.
| Polluting Education | The global seed cartel has by grants a huge influence in the academic/scientific world. Money talks. This could be solved very easily by legislation that makes corporate funding of the education system illegal. That will prevent corruption at the core of the academic education. It also prevents that the global seed cartel by paying 10% of the costs of an academic education system gets 100% influence on what is taught by the professors to the students. Professors and university departments should be sponsored: students should be sponsored: that delivers cross pollination of knowledge, both for the universities as for the companies. It also fixes the student debt issue. It ensures more objective academic education. Sponsoring of students delivers more research and better science, sponsoring of professors and university departments delivers more seed cartel favouring whitewashing and propaganda.
| Polluting Freedom | The global seed cartel is aiming the freedom of choice, the freedom of seed use and the freedom of seed improvement. They active lobby against food labeling regarding GMO content. Look for example of this into the details of the Prop 37 ballot in the State of California on https://www.google.nl/search?q=prop+37. The global seed cartel also targets your freedom of using your own seeds, swapping seeds with other people/farmers. They want to be the un-elected seed bosses.
| Polluting Health | First we thought we just eat food for energy. Than we learned that we don’t only needed calories/joules/energy, but also vitamins, minerals, etc. These days we learn that we consume rDNA too: In street language: we eat also ‘information’. Cell Research published an article on this, which can be found on http://www.cell-research.com/AOP/September-20-5.htm. The global seed cartel only performs internal 90 days health effect trials on rats. They never did any long term health effect studies and (not needed as they has written the legislation themselves). All long term studies indicates severe health effects due to GMO food consumption. An assessment of this Cell Research study in plain english by Natural News can be found on Youtube on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-IJikX1144.
| Polluting Ecology | Seeds doesn’t ‘stay at home’. It spreads by nature. Always. GMO seeds too. This is why some nations (like Hungary) has legislation in place that forbids the grow of GMO crops: as it don’t ‘stays’ on the farm that grows it, but spread in nature, adjusting nature with this DNA contamination. Hungary goes further than talking on the subject: they even destroyed illegal grown GMO fields in 2013. The huge question is: Do we all want to release fabricated DNA into nature? DNA that will change a balanced natural system and by that could threaten it? What’s in that for us? Should the profit of small group of owners of a global seed cartel endanger our overall fauna and flora system?
| Destroying Farms | As the global seed cartel use hard intimidations to force all farmer to switch to paying their patent fees (regardless if they use them or not), the global seed cartel endangers the high food output family farm. The global food cartel has learned noting about the long term performance of the industrial farms in history. Therefore their ‘compassion’ for the global food system mentioned on their websites is not more than just PR/imago sweet talk. By their close to mob extort practices they endager the financial health of the current farm system. They are the elephant in the earning room that eats almost all earnings and contribute zero (as the high yield bla bla is just marketing/propaganda talk). Even if the farmer don’t use their seeds but just some seeds are blown at his/her field, they send the patent invoice for the last 5 years. No farmer survive such an invoice and the stress plus legal battle that goes with it. Global seed cartels are the end of the economic health of farmers (and by that also for their bankers: something often forgotten). The global seed cartel is draining the profit a farmer needs to cope with all conditions/setbacks nature delivers year in and year out. Global seed cartels are just robbing the fruit of other people’s labor/investments/risks.
| Solutions | There is one quick solving it all solution to eliminate the global seed cartel: making patents on life/DNA illegal. Than the global seed cartel will implode instantly. This is something that everybody should fight for. Patents: nice. Patents on live/DNA: no. Is the solution global digital (yes or no and nothing in between on global level)? No. There are a lot of things that could be done on national level, regional level and private. A nice example is a citizen’s initiative that operates a decentral seed conservation/storage project what is active in Germany (see http://www.arche-noah.at/etomite). Germans understand by their history the dangers of power concentration somewhat better than the rest of us. Are there other possibilities? Yes, just like in the open source software community some lawyers attack fake IPR (public domain stuff that’s pulled into private domains), the same could be done regarding out of the public domain stolen DNA patents. It’s a defense model that is funded by the penalties the stolen DNA patenters must pay to those who they have ripped of plus surplus on that. A good business model for any law firm that understands IPR and need some new business. And of course the illegal DNA patenters will try to bribe those law firms, but lawyers with passion and well known as public interests fighters will resist these bribes. For those court cases is counter evidence very important. Therefore are the distributed seed banks so important: they conserve natural DNA not only for the DNA, but also as counter evidence against illegal DNA patents.
| Alternatives | But also think about new sectors in food: In the realm of biophysics (using physics in agriculture) and bio-symbiosis (using specs of one flora/fauna to improve an other flora/fauna, or processing/enriching the soil) is a whole new world to explore. Another huge change could be the planned grazing model of the Savory Institute. For a TED lecture of the founder see http://on.ted.com/Savory. His model could produce all the meat of the world without one soy bean as animal food. Food companies and retail chains who see the danger of the Elephant in the Food Price Model caused by the DNA cartel should be selling this meat as soon as possible: it will cut of the soy patent revenues and round-up sales revenues of Monsanto big time. Another alternative is the use of duck weed instead of soy to produce protein for life stock and human consumption. Duck weed delivers 7 times more protein per acre than soy and can grow much up into the not tropical Global North. Another solution that will eliminate the revenue stream towards the DNA cartel.
| Conclusion | Is this sheet written from a anti technological realm / point of view? No, we like technology very much. We just don’t like cartels, nor patents on DNA. If you want to do DNA selection: We hope you want to do it and become good at it. If you want to do DNA tech: We hope you will do it as open technology and earn a living in implementation of your open source technology.
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Gijs B. Graafland | Planck Foundation
Amsterdam | Holland Europe | 2015