Neil Young released his mini-documentary Seeding Fear yesterday, which coincided with the House of Representatives passing the infamous DARK (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act. Seeding Fear is a 10-minute documentary that exposes how the multi-million-dollar biotech company Monsanto has unjustly sued small farmers for patent infringement on its genetically modified seed. The Dark Act is a bill that would forbid states from issuing mandatory labeling laws on GMO products, even in states that have already passed GMO labeling laws. Young’s mini-documentary piggybacks the release of his album The Monsanto Years in late June.
Seeding Fear follows the journey of Michael White, a fourth-generation organic farmer in rural Alabama who was sued by Monsanto in 2003 for copyright infringement after unknowingly cleaning GM soybeans for a local farmer. Michael says he was chosen by Monsanto to be made into a “poster boy” in order to intimidate other farmers.
“Many of us at Monsanto have been and are fans of Neil Young. Unfortunately, for some of us, his current album may fail to reflect our strong beliefs in what we do every day to help make agriculture more sustainable. We recognize there is a lot of misinformation about who we are and what we do – and unfortunately several of those myths seem to be captured in these lyrics,” Monsanto said in response to the singer’s album.
Monsanto abuses local farmers and farming practices
Michael’s story is not, of course, unique. Monsanto has sued hundreds of local farmers for copyright infringement. Much of the time, the genetically engineered crops inadvertently cross-contaminate farmers’ non-GM crops. The wind can carry pollen from one crop to a neighboring crop. Even though most farmers are innocent, Monsanto has the financial and political means to win the majority of its court cases.
The absurdity lies in the fact that Monsanto is able to sue farmers for their crops being contaminated by other farmers’ GM crops, but farmers generally can’t sue when their crops are contaminated by GMOs. Organic farmers don’t want to use Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds. The Roundup herbicide used on the crop contains glyphosate, which is toxic to human cells. Organic farmers wish to keep their crops pure.
Monsanto has tarnished farming practices that have stood the test of time, most notably the right to save and reuse crop seeds. Farmers can save money by saving and reusing seeds from previous crops. Farmers who use Monsanto’s seeds are prohibited from reusing the seeds; farmers must purchase the same seeds next year. At best, farmers can use the seeds for animal feed. Monsanto forces farmers to repurchase their seeds in order to make a greater profit.
Michael White vs. Monsanto
What makes Michael’s story unique is that he is one of the few farmers who can publicly speak about his court case. Most farmers go broke before they are cleared for a jury trial; however, Michael was the exception. He was able to settle his case with Monsanto in 2006 after he was cleared for a jury trail.
Michael took on the biotech corporation with his father, Wayne White. Michael says that the lawsuit ruined his father’s life, and that he went to the grave in fear of Monsanto. “It’s pretty hard taking your 80-something-year-old father to federal court on a walker when he’s falsely accused by a big corporation,” Michael said in the mini-documentary.
Despite Young’s campaign against Monsanto, the House of Representatives passed the Dark Act by 275-150. If passed by the Senate, the bill will make it impossible for states to require GMO products to be properly labeled. Just as was the case with Michael White, individual rights have been replaced with corporate rights.