Monday, June 4th 2012 - 06:22 UTC

Major GM soy legal feud between Monsanto and five million Brazilian farmers

Illegally smuggled into Brazil 14 years ago, transgenic soy has proved a boon to domestic farmers and now accounts for 85 percent of total production. But five million Brazilian farmers are now locked in a legal feud with US biotech giant Monsanto, the GM soy seed manufacturer, and are refusing to pay crop royalties.

Allegedly the first transgenic soy seeds were illegally smuggled into Brazil from neighbouring Argentina in 1998

In the mid-1990s Monsanto began commercializing its genetically modified soy in the United States. Monsanto's soy seeds are spliced with a bacterium's gene that makes the plants immune to the company's popular herbicide Roundup, which farmers can then use to kill weeds while the soy plants flourish.

The first transgenic soy seeds were illegally smuggled into Brazil from neighbouring Argentina in 1998 and their use was banned and subject to prosecution until the last decade, according to the state-owned Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research (EMBRAPA).

The ban has since been lifted and now 85% of the country's soybean crop (25 million hectares or 62 million acres) is genetically modified, according to Alexandre Cattelan, an EMBRAPA researcher.

Last year, Brazil was the world's second producer and exporter of soybean, behind the United States.

Sales of GM soy -- which is used for animal feed, soybean oil or bio-fuel -- reached a whopping 24.1 billion dollars and made up 26% of Brazil's farm exports last year. China is the main customer of Brazilian soy.

But four years ago, five million big and small Brazilian producers filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, accusing the US chemical giant of unduly collecting 2% of sales of their annual harvest.

Since 2003-2004, Monsanto has demanded that producers of transgenic soy pay it 2% of their sales as crop royalties, Neri Perin, who is a representative of big producers. Lawyers for the producers say this means that their clients end up paying twice for the seed.

”Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay (again). Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production,“ said lawyer Jane Berwanger.

In April, a judge in the southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, Giovanni Conti, ruled in favour of the producers and ordered Monsanto to return royalties paid since 2004 or a minimum of 2 billion dollars.

Monsanto appealed and a federal court is to rule on the case by 2014. In the meantime Monsanto said it was still being paid crop royalties.

At the same time, transgenic soy cultivation is spreading like wildfire across Brazil, despite protests from environmentalists who say it leads to increased deforestation and from experts who say it results in less farm jobs.

”Transgenic soy occupies 44% of land under grain cultivation but represents only 5.5% of farm jobs,“ said Sergio Schlesinger, a researcher who slammed the advance of soybean monoculture in his book ”The grain that grew too much.”

He said this highly mechanized monoculture requires little labour and leads to the expulsion of thousands of farm workers.

After its initial ban on GM soy, the Brazilian government is now investing in research to develop this type of technology. Transgenic soy is now grown in 17 of the country's 26 states, with the largest production in Mato Grosso, Parana and Rio Grande do Sul.

Although still the largest exporting country, the United States has lost the dominant position it once had in the global soy trade. Brazil, Argentina, China and India have all become major players as the world's demand for soy as food, vegetable oil, and animal feed has continued to increase.

10 comments Feed

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1 British_Kirchnerist (#) Jun 04th, 2012 - 03:16 pm Report abuse
Monsanto are one of the most unethical multinationals, hope the Brazilian farmers beat them
2 yankeeboy (#) Jun 04th, 2012 - 03:18 pm Report abuse
Monsanto has won the same cases all over the world even in Argentina. If they don't want their PATENTED seeds they should be using them. Don't you think?
This is why civilized countries think most of SA is corrupt barbarians.
3 rylang23 (#) Jun 04th, 2012 - 05:21 pm Report abuse
yankeeboy.... you have forgotten your Thoreau. “Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” Personally, I find Monsanto to be a major part of the evil Anglo/American empire, and the sooner we pitch them into the dustbin of history the better. Actually, I meant that to include both Monsanto AND the Anglo/American empire.
4 Fido Dido (#) Jun 04th, 2012 - 07:30 pm Report abuse
Monsanto is Monsatan. Their main interest is simple, control the food supply. There is a high chance the Brazilian farmers will beat them. Same thing happened in nations like Poland and other eastern european nations.
5 Truth_Telling_Troll (#) Jun 04th, 2012 - 07:33 pm Report abuse
You know, I have to side with yankeeboy here. Don't use seeds that were modified by this company.

Of course, there have been rumors that Monsanto genetically altered instects to make them resistant to insecticides and thus forcing farmers around the world to purchase their feed. I would not put it past them.
6 yankeeboy (#) Jun 04th, 2012 - 08:27 pm Report abuse
5. They will just stop selling Round Up in Brazil and the seeds won't work. It is pretty simple. What they did to Argentina is have their crop held in cargo ships in EU until ARG relented and paid. I am surprised they haven't done it to Brazil yet. I guess they want to work through the courts first.
One thing that drives the USA crazy about Brazil they want to play like they are a big developed country unless it suits them to be a poor developing country so they can ignore our patents . It will end up biting them in the end.
7 hammerhead993 (#) Jun 04th, 2012 - 08:53 pm Report abuse
@6 Your second paragraph is spot-on.

@1 Expound on your comment. Are you saying that it's OK that Brazilians are using stolen technology and should continue to use it? Or, are you saying that Brazilian farmers should completely stop using the technology?

It sure seems to me that Brazil's GDP has benefited from stolen technology. But, the culture of thievery in Latin America will simply never go away.
8 British_Kirchnerist (#) Jun 05th, 2012 - 12:43 am Report abuse
Japan in the 19th century copied European ships and other machines component for component. If the rest of Asia and Africa had done the same they could possibly have avoided European - and Japanese - colonisation. In other words “intellectual property” is humbug. I'm against thieving, yes, but the biggest thieves in my eyes are the corrupt multinationals
9 hammerhead993 (#) Jun 05th, 2012 - 01:46 am Report abuse
Nice non-answer. I can tell you like to be very “cerebral” don't you. That's really great. Here's the question again - Do you think it's OK that Brazilians are using stolen technology and should they continue to use it? Or, do you think Brazilian farmers should stop using the technology completely?

You're the one who made the initial statement in the first post. I'm simply asking you to say what it is you want to say and be crystal clear.... for those of us who aren't so cerebral that is.
10 Fido Dido (#) Jun 05th, 2012 - 01:53 am Report abuse

Great comment and I totally agree with you. the lap dogs of the bogus free traders “crony capitalists” who love to use the words “free trade” won't understand why they “big business” are pushing for their “intellectual property” bull crap, that protects them thanks to “big government”.

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