Food, Inc FAQs

Why do you sue farmers for saving seeds? Aren’t many of them forced to settle their cases because they don’t have the financial resources to go up against a large corporation in a lawsuit?

How do we know biotech crops produce safe food?

Can a farmer be sued when a small amount of GM crop seed blows into a neighbor’s fields? Do you sue this farmer? Does he or she have to prove he or she is innocent?

Why did you sue a small farmer for cleaning seeds? What happened in the case of Moe Parr?

Have former Monsanto employees working in government compromised or unduly influenced government decisions on biotechnology?

Why do you sue farmers for saving seeds? Aren’t many of them forced to settle their cases because they don’t have the financial resources to go up against a large corporation in a lawsuit?

As a company dedicated to agriculture, Monsanto is committed to the success of farmers. Farmers are our customers, and we work hard to deliver products that meet their needs and expectations. Farmers buy our seed products because we consistently provide them with the best array of technologies that offer the best value for their dollar. When we do not offer the best value, farmers do business with our competitors. Farmers know Monsanto technologies are a direct result of tremendous investments of time, hard work and resources. In fact, Monsanto invests about $2.6 million per day to ensure our technologies offer our customers safe, consistent, high-performing products.

Monsanto values every customer. A decision to file suit against a farmer is very carefully considered. Every effort is made to resolve the matter outside of the litigation process and when we do file suit it is because we feel it is the only option available to us. We need to meet our obligations to all the farmers who honor their commitments and who insist we maintain integrity in the market -- so they are not placed at a disadvantage when competing for limited resources like land, investment capital and other crop inputs.

Monsanto files suit against farmers who breach their contracts and infringe our patents -- not against farmers who did not intentionally take these actions. The vast majority of these matters are managed on the farm between one of our managers and the farmer, and in most cases, the farmer remains a valued Monsanto customer.

Back to top

What is Monsanto’s standard policy if we discover a farmer is violating his or her seed contract?

If there is evidence of seed piracy, we work with the farmer to confirm the facts and discuss how to resolve the issue quickly, amicably and professionally in accordance with our Commitment on Farmers and Patents. This commitment clearly outlines a strict code of conduct we must operate under if we are investigating possible violations. In particular, we do not threaten farmers, we respect their privacy, we do not trespass, and we do not pursue farmers for the accidental presence of our patented technology in their fields or crops.

Despite what some critics may say, Monsanto expects all of its employees to honor this commitment, which is the right thing to do on ethical and common-sense grounds, let alone legal ones.

Why? Farmers are our customers. We must do right by each of them, and we have made a pledge to do so. There is no benefit to violating that pledge and compromising the farmer’s trust.

Furthermore, from a legal standpoint, if we decide we have no choice but to start investigative proceedings against someone, these activities must be conducted in accordance with the law. Our cases would not prevail in any court if we did not gather evidence and conduct ourselves in an appropriate, transparent, professional and non-coercive manner. The court system holds Monsanto to a very high standard in the evidence we present and the claims we make in any legal proceeding, and every farmer is given ample opportunity to respond to these claims.

With regard to specific cases, the vast majority of our contractual disputes are settled out of court, with only nine during the past decade proceeding through to a complete trial. With each of these nine cases, and the subsequent appeals, the evidence was found to be overwhelmingly in Monsanto’s favor, and courts have ruled in our favor each and every time. In the instances where we reach settlements, these agreements are put in place because both parties want to remedy the situation and avoid unnecessary, costly and time-consuming litigation procedures.

It’s important to note Monsanto directs all proceeds from these settlements to youth leadership and scholarship programs.

So, next time you hear or read Monsanto is intimidating or harassing farmers, ask yourself whether there might be more information on that subject, and look for the proof of that allegation.

Just remember these simple facts: 250,000 customers a year finding value in the deal they made with Monsanto -- and only 141 legal actions over the last 12 years in the United States.

Back to top

How do we know biotech crops produce safe food?

Biotech crops and their food products have been in use worldwide for about 14 years, since the first commercial planting in 1996. More than two trillion meals containing ingredients from biotech crops have been safely consumed. These products have received independent review by regulatory agencies and scientists throughout the world.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and regulatory agencies in 25 different countries have independently assessed these products and concluded they are safe for human consumption and the environment.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Council for Science, the French Food Agency, the British Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences have all declared biotech foods safe for human and animal consumption.

Each new agricultural biotech product is carefully reviewed before it is commercialized. Testing of biotech crops before they are introduced to market generally takes about 6-12 years at a cost of $6-12 million.

The important thing to consider is we have had a great amount of experience with these products, with many authoritative and watchful reviews by agencies throughout the world.

Back to top

Can a farmer be sued when a small amount of GM crop seed blows into a neighbor’s fields? Do you sue this farmer? Does he or she have to prove he or she is innocent?

    It has never been, nor will it be, Monsanto policy to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented traits are present in farmers’ fields as a result of inadvertent means. We have no motivation to conduct business in this manner, nor have we ever attempted to conduct business in this manner -- and we surely would not prevail in the courts if we did.

    If a suspected instance of a farmer violating our technology agreements or patent rights is reported to us, we do not automatically assume a farmer has intentionally acted in an unethical or criminal manner. The burden of proof is not on the farmer. Instead, the burden of proof is on Monsanto to investigate the legitimacy of these claims and to resolve the issue as quickly and fairly as possible, which usually does not lead to litigation.

    It is patently false that Monsanto sues farmers for the accidental presence of our technology in their crops. This misperception likely began with Percy Schmeiser, who was brought to court in Canada by Monsanto for illegally saving Roundup Ready® canola seed. Mr. Schmeiser claims to this day the presence of Monsanto technology in his fields was accidental, even though three separate court decisions, including one by the Canadian Supreme Court, concluded his claims were false. A review of the evidence presented in court makes it very clear Mr. Schmeiser’s claims are not credible.

    The only way we can achieve success as a company is to work every day to show farmers, communities and consumers we are a beneficial, helpful and ethical business partner.

    Back to top

    Why did you sue a small farmer for cleaning seeds? What happened in the case of Moe Parr?

      For background, some types of seeds must meet certain requirements in order to be stored and replanted, such as needing to be cleaned to separate them from the excess plant material.

      Every year, most farmers make the decision to buy new seeds for one of two reasons:

      • They decide to take advantage of the benefits of new hybrids seeds, or
      • They choose the benefits of biotech seeds and have signed an agreement that they will not save and either sell or replant the seeds produced from the biotech seeds they bought from their chosen seed vendor.

      So why would farmers pay for new seeds when they can use other seeds for free? The main reason is every season seeds are improved and offer a variety of new benefits that provide increasing value for the money. Farmers are smart business people who are receptive to these types of enhanced product choices.

      Moe Parr and seed cleaning
      Cleaning seeds is not against the law, but specific seed cleaning activities may infringe upon a patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office -- and thereby constitute a violation of the U.S. Plant Patent Act. In these rare instances, seed companies are within their rights to enforce their patents. The most important consideration in this situation is the protection of the overwhelming majority of honest farmers who abide by their contractual agreements, and to discourage using technology illegally to gain an unfair advantage.

      Maurice (Moe) Parr is not a farmer. He has operated a seed cleaning business in Indiana for decades. Monsanto took legal action against Parr when we became aware he was involved in the illegal cleaning of patented seed, and after years of efforts to manage the problem in other ways.

      Mr. Parr is often quoted as saying he only agreed to settle with Monsanto because he could not afford the legal battle. That statement conveniently leaves out a critical detail. Rather than having simply “settled with Monsanto,” Mr. Parr was issued a permanent injunction by the U.S. District Court in Lafayette, Indiana, prohibiting him from cleaning Roundup Ready® soybeans.

      Some other facts about the case:

      • Mr. Parr had historically received clear communication about the patent law around Roundup Ready soybeans and knowingly disregarded this information by confusing farmers about the law regarding patents.
      • Affidavits from local farmers allege Mr. Parr misled customers into breaking patent law by convincing them to save patented seed so he could clean their patented seed and profit from that activity.
      • The injunction also makes clear Mr. Parr will honor the terms of the agreement and stop cleaning patented seeds.

      Mr. Parr is able to continue to clean conventional soybeans, wheat and other non-patented seed crops, and Monsanto, in a gesture of good faith, has agreed to forego the financial judgment against Mr. Parr as long as he honors the terms of the court order.

      Still not sure what to believe? Please read the injunction against Mr. Parr.

      Back to top

      Have former Monsanto employees working in government compromised or unduly influenced government decisions on biotechnology?

        Individuals with expertise in a certain subject matter often work in both the public and private sector during the course of their careers. However, federal laws carefully prevent conflict-of-interest situations when private sector employees take government jobs.

        The regulation of biotechnology is the result of hundreds of government policy and subject matter experts in a number of agencies – that also consult with outside scientists and universities -- who evaluate the best information available and reach conclusions. The U.S. government’s system for regulating biotechnology products is not the result of work from a few individuals who could unduly influence the outcome.

        In the case of biotech crops, regulatory agencies in 25 countries, including the U.S., independently evaluated the evidence during the past 16 years and concluded these products are safe for human consumption and the environment. The government employees who work in these agencies are hard working, dedicated public servants. Any implication otherwise should be followed by proof of that allegation and other information that backs up those claims.

        The specific allegation in Food, Inc. of undue influence -- involving U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas -- doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. It is true Thomas worked at Monsanto as an attorney many years before he became a Supreme Court justice. It is also true Thomas wrote the majority opinion in a biotechnology case that was decided by the court in 2001.

        What the movie does not say is Monsanto was not involved in biotechnology when Justice Thomas worked for Monsanto. Nor does the movie mention the case in question involved a competitor of ours – Pioneer – not Monsanto. Furthermore, although he wrote the majority opinion, five independent justices voted with him (it was a 6-2 verdict.)

        More information about this issue can be found at:

        Back to Top