By the time Monsanto got into the seed business, most farmers in the U.S. and Europe were already relying on seed that they bought every year from older seed companies. This is especially true of corn farmers, who’ve been growing almost exclusively commercial hybrids for more than half a century. (If you re-plant seeds from hybrids, you get a mixture of inferior varieties.) But even soybean and cotton farmers who don’t grow hybrids were moving in that direction.
The idea, however, is inspired by a real-world event. Back in 1999, Monsanto sued a Canadian canola farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for growing the company’s Roundup-tolerant canola without paying any royalty or “technology fee.” Schmeiser had never bought seeds from Monsanto, so those canola plants clearly came from somewhere else. But where?
This convinced the judge that Schmeiser intentionally planted Roundup Ready canola. Schmeiser appealed. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Schmeiser had violated Monsanto’s patent, but had obtained no benefit by doing so, so he didn’t owe Monsanto any money. (For more details on all this, you can read the judge’s decision. Schmeiser’s site contains other documents.)
No, they’ll germinate and grow just like any other plant. This idea presumably has its roots in a real genetic modification (dubbed the Terminator Gene by anti-biotech activists) that can make a plant produce sterile seeds. Monsanto owns the patent on this technique, but has promised not to use it.
Canola pollen can move for miles, carried by insects or the wind. Schmeiser testified that this must have been the cause, or GMO canola might have blown into his field from a passing truck. Monsanto said that this was implausible, because their tests showed that about 95 percent of Schmeiser’s canola contained Monsanto’s Roundup resistance gene, and it’s impossible to get such high levels through stray pollen or scattered seeds. However, there’s lots of confusion about these tests. Other samples, tested by other people, showed lower concentrations of Roundup resistance — but still over 50 percent of the crop.
But as far as I can tell, Monsanto has never sued anybody over trace amounts of GMOs that were introduced into fields simply through cross-pollination. (The company asserts, in fact, that it will pay to remove any of its GMOs from fields where they don’t belong.) If you know of any case where this actually happened, please let me know.
Myth 2: Monsanto will sue you for growing their patented GMOs if traces of those GMOs entered your fields through wind-blown pollen.
Myth 1: Seeds from GMOs are sterile.
This shift started with the rise of commercial seed companies, not the advent of genetic engineering. But Monsanto and GMOs certainly accelerated the trend drastically.
Bev Yates, the company’s national marketing manager, says the non-GMO label is in answer to customer’s concerns about planting genetically modified seeds in their home gardens.
As I was sorting through the seed box for the upcoming campaign, I noticed a new addition to the front of Lake Valley Seed packets – a NON-GMO label that also identifies the contents as “untreated seed.”
Here’s what vegetable gardeners need to know about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) before going seed shopping this season.
Organic seeds are those that are grown and processed following the standards set by the USDA’s National Organic Program. The “USDA ORGANIC” label on seed packets assures gardeners the seeds were grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides or genetically engineered seeds and materials.