Monsanto, SDSU, and Wheat


Hat tip to Cory at Madville Times for keeping me posted on SDSU’s doings–yesterday, SDSU and the Board of Regents announced they are suing five producers for “brown-bagging” hybrid wheat seed that is the intellectual property of the University.

By themselves, these suits do not send up much of a red flag to me–if the producers were taking the hybrid wheat seed they bought and repackaging and selling it–well, that’s illegal.

It would concern me much more if the suit were against producers who had grown out and saved seed from their crop, and then were sued for selling the fruits of their labor–which is what Monsanto has done–even when the seed was the producer’s own to begin with, but had been contaminated with their neighbor’s GMO strains.

Right now there’s WAY too little information available on these suits–especially from the producers’ side–to make an informed call on what exactly is going on.

But it is worthwhile and troubling to note that a day after the suit’s announcement appeared in AgWeek, another announcement came my way via Twitter: the Wall Street Journal reports that Monsanto is once again moving into GMO wheat research and development after having abandoned the project in 2004.

Of course, many of my readers already know that South Dakota State University’s President, David Chicoine, now sits on Monsanto’s Board of Directors, an appointment that has caused outrage and dismay among many small (and some large-scale) farmers in South Dakota.

One has to wonder if the bulk of Monsanto’s new GMO wheat development project will be pursued in Brookings. There may be some who think that’s something to applaud–South Dakota needs more research and development funding.

But in a state with an overly business-friendly government unwilling to listen to the concerns of its citizens, the news is troubling, indeed.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. As a wheat and cattle producer, I’ve been able to keep the fasc… er corporate behemoths at bay. So far. We are wheat breeders in the Oklahoma State University breeding program, and the group prides itself on being a very producer driven organization. Compared to corn and soybeans, wheat is still a ‘free’ crop, in that wheat varieties exist because producers save them back, and propagate them on the breed’s success.

    Some protection is warranted, to recoup costs, but with new traits we can already see the cogs falling into place that will shackle wheat ala corn n’ beans. Clearfield varieties (resistant to certain herbicides) and now the inevitable Roundup Ready Wheat will be the hook that brings a lot of relatively independent wheat farmers into the corporate boat. We decided the other day, in the face of this, it’s our duty to keep these savable, non protected varieties going. They represent freedom from the corporate/statist beast.

    The same dynamic exists on the beef side. The Tysons of the world have yet to fully integrate cattle like they have hogs and chickens. With those animals the ‘Tysons’ have offset their risk, taken the true market demand out of the picture, and corralled the producers.

    With legislation like NAIS, COOL, and proposed cow methane taxes, the corporate giants will finally make cow calf operations (a relatively green segment of animal ag) unprofitable and bureaucratic enough to get ranchers to sell out and become caretakers of animals that they don’t own, just like hog and chicken “producers”.

    And if they want to direct market? Well, proposed “food safety” laws will make that such a daunting undertaking that it may just be easier to sell out of give up.

    What am I saying? That well meaning legislation and corporate rent seeking are going to hurt all of, whatever types of farming we do.

    Anyways, long winded, nice blog! Been following for a while now.

  2. Posted by flyingtomato on July 15, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Thanks for the comment! It is good to hear from an independent wheat producer on this issue. I was flying high over our recent Local Food Summit in Rapid City, South Dakota, but today’s news is almost all grim. It was enough for me to realize I needed to get away for a bit and tackle the monster my backyard had become while my focus was on the farm and food legislation issues.

    Well, we’ll keep fighting, and I’ll keep blogging. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

    –re.

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