Monsanto is a very clear and principled code of conduct – one we expect all employees, contractors and management to live by every day. We operate under a genuine value system—our pledge—that demonstrates integrity, respect, ethical behavior, perspective and honesty as a foundation for everything we do.
A key part of fulfilling the promise of our value system is by engaging our communities in a significant and positive manner. Not only do we work hard to support the family farmer in a variety of ways, but we also:
- provide extensive educational programs – particularly in science and agriculture – for students around the world
- fund numerous research grants for graduate students
- work in partnership with government bodies, non-profit agencies and advocacy groups to make agriculture more sustainable
Saved Seed and Farmer Lawsuits
Enforcing patent law is not much different from the enforcement of other laws. Most people respect the law. Often, honest citizens will report those who break the law. The same is true for patent infringement involving saved seed. The vast majority of farmers respect patent laws and honor their agreements to abide by that law. When one farmer sees another farmer saving patented seed, they will often report them. Many of the tips Monsanto gets about farmers saving patented seeds come from other farmers in the same community.
Usually, cases come to us when someone reports they believe seed is being saved illegally. Monsanto’s attorneys look into these allegations and may have a licensed private investigator look into the facts. If infringement is a possibility, a Monsanto manager will meet with the individuals involved. There have been farmers who were contacted and provided information that resulted in Monsanto closing the case. The vast majority of farmers who are presented with facts showing infringement admit the violation and pay a settlement.
Since 1997, we have only filed suit against farmers 147 times in the United States. This may sound like a lot, but when you consider that we sell seed to more than 325,000 American farmers a year, it’s really a small number. Of these, we’ve proceeded through trial with only eleven farmers. All eleven cases were found in Monsanto’s favor.
A very small number of farmers involved in patent infringement cases with Monsanto have sought publicity around their cases, and have characterized the company’s actions in a negative light. In some other situations, outside parties have portrayed particular cases negatively. We take exception to any misleading allegation of wrong-doing. Our employees and contractors respect our customers and their property.
Documents and Info Monsanto Provides to FarmersGrowers are expected to stay informed of up-to-date management practices for Monsanto products. The Technology Use Guide provides a concise overview of Monsanto’s current portfolio of technology products and sets forth the requirements and guidelines for use of these products. Growers who wish to purchase and use our patented seed must have a signed and valid Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement.
Monsanto’s primary reason for enforcing its patents is to ensure a level playing field for the vast majority of honest farmers who abide by their agreements, and to discourage using technology illegally to gain an unfair advantage. This document lays out our commitment to farmers when reviewing, evaluating and investigating potential seed patent infringement matters.
Monsanto patents many of the seed varieties we develop. Patents are necessary to ensure that we are paid for our products and for all the investments we put into developing these products. This is one of the basic reasons for patents. A more important reason is to help foster innovation. Without the protection of patents there would be little incentive for privately-owned companies to pursue and re-invest in innovation. Monsanto invests more than $2.6 million per day in research and development that ultimately benefits farmers and consumers. Without the protection of patents, this would not be possible.
When farmers purchase a patented seed variety, they sign an agreement that they will not save and replant seeds produced from the seed they buy from us. More than 325,000 farmers a year buy seed under these agreements in the United States. Other seed companies sell their seed under similar provisions. They understand the basic simplicity of the agreement, which is that a business must be paid for its product. The vast majority of farmers understand and appreciate our research and are willing to pay for our inventions and the value they provide. They don’t think it’s fair that some farmers don’t pay.
A very small percentage of farmers do not honor this agreement. Monsanto does become aware, through our own actions or through third-parties, of individuals who are suspected of violating our patents and agreements. Where we do find violations, we are able to settle most of these cases without ever going to trial. In many cases, these farmers remain our customers. Sometimes however, we are forced to resort to lawsuits. This is a relatively rare circumstance, with 147 lawsuits filed since 1997 in the United States. This averages about 8 per year for the past 18 years. To date, only 9 cases have gone through full trial. In every one of these instances, the jury or court decided in our favor.
Whether the farmer settles right away, or the case settles during or through trial, the proceeds are donated to youth leadership initiatives including scholarship programs.
We pursue these matters for three main reasons. First, no business can survive without being paid for its product. Second, the loss of this revenue would hinder our ability to invest in research and development to create new products to help farmers. We currently invest over $2.6 million per day to develop and bring new products to market. Third, it would be unfair to the farmers that honor their agreements to let others get away with getting it for free. Farming, like any other business, is competitive and farmers need a level playing field.