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GM Crop Producer Monsanto Using Data Analytics To Expand Its Footprint

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the don't-get-cloud-with-their-cloud-pollinating-your-cloud dept.

Biotech 128

Nerval's Lobster writes "Monsanto is more infamous for growing its genetically modified crops than its use of software, but a series of corporate acquisitions and a new emphasis on tech solutions has transformed it into a firm that acts more like an innovative IT vendor than an agribusiness giant. Jim McCarter (the Entrepreneur in Residence for Monsanto) recently detailed for an audience in St. Louis how the company's IT efforts are expanding. Monsanto's core projects generate huge amounts of bits, especially its genomic efforts, which are the focus of so much public attention. Other big data gobblers are the phenotypes of millions of DNA structures that describe the various biological properties of each plant, and the photographic imagery of crop fields. (All told, there are several tens of petabytes that need storage and analysis, a number that's doubling roughly every 16 months.) With all that tech muscle, the company has launched IT-based initiatives such as its FieldScripts software, which uses proprietary algorithms (fed with data from the FieldScripts Testing Network and Monsanto research) to recommend where to best plant corn hybrids. 'Just like Amazon has its recommendation engine for what book to buy, we will have our recommendations of what and how a grower should plant a particular crop,' said McCarter. 'All fields aren't uniform and shouldn't be planted uniformly either.' Despite its increasingly sophisticated use of data analytics in the name of greater crop yields, however, Monsanto faces pushback from various groups with an aversion to genetically modified food; a current ballot initiative in Washington State, for example, could result in genetically modified foods needing a label in order to go on sale here. The company has also inspired a 'March Against Monsanto,' which has been much in the news lately."

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Farmer types, a question for you (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916731)

Why stick to a single crop and not rotate like days of old?

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916791)

Why stick to a single crop and not rotate like days of old?

Because we feel like it? What's it to you?

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (3, Interesting)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about a year ago | (#43917121)

Considering what happened in Oregon recently with Monsanto Wheat Experiments, I think maybe they need to improve the geolocation part of their data analysis.

That, and offer to pay for genetic testing of the entire agricultural industry now polluted with their test genes.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (0)

tomhath (637240) | about a year ago | (#43917617)

Everything about the Oregon result looks like sabotage. It'll be interesting to see if they can find the source of the seed.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917185)

Why stick to a single crop and not rotate like days of old?

Because we feel like it? What's it to you?

Different crops take different nutrients from the soil. Rotation allows the soil to recover, leaving it fallow allows further recovery and feeds livestock. This has been known for around 700 years, and was the case until a few decades ago. So, other than lining chemical companies' pockets, adding back what's been over-farmed, it's worth asking those that actually know what they're talking about.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (5, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#43916863)

Because different crops are different. They require different care, different equipment, and have different market demands. That means different prices, different profits, and different outcomes. Instead of just growing and harvesting a crop, you're now managing a multi-year multi-stage process across several rotating plots, and a single bad year can disrupt the next several years of work as you try to rebuild that delicate year-to-year balance of nutrients.

I know the nostalgic image of the gentle old-time farmer is romantic, but the simple fact is that modern farms are a production industry. Just like any other production industry, there's a significant expense associated with every redesign and retooling for a new project. Generalization has some benefits (labeling food "organic", for instance), but specialization has its benefits as well (lower expenses).

Source: I grew up in farmland. When the wind blows just right, you can smell the manure from the pig farms. When it blows the opposite direction, you can smell the manure being spread on the crop fields.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917001)

A Wall Street type and a rancher driving through ranchland.

Wall Street type: (sniffs and grimaces) "What is that SMELL?"

Rancher: (sniffs and grins heartily) "MONEY!"

Wall Street type: (thinks, focuses and forces a smile) "Ah, such a pleasant scent."

Wall Street type plots to take some home with him, rancher hopes to trade him a honey wagon full....

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#43917019)

Source: I grew up in farmland. When the wind blows just right, you can smell the manure from the pig farms.

aka: The Smell of Other People's Money

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917277)

"I know the nostalgic image of the gentle old-time farmer is romantic"
It's also smarter than you think you are. When the genetic crops fail they will ALL fail and the bio-diversified crops will reign.
What seems a "no brainer" requires one, to ask yourself questions. Like what does the continual use of roundup do to OUR genetic makeup?
Crops have been developed for centuries for particular areas and are called heirloom varieties and passed down legally to each other for eons.
Now Monsanto wants everyone to buy only theirs. But your propaganda is clearly obvious. Superior? Super? Suspect.
Don't change my world Monsanto. Go steal the farms in India like you are doing...to the farmers here with lawsuits.
Absolutely shameful on US

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (0)

lemur3 (997863) | about a year ago | (#43917425)

When the genetic crops fail they will ALL fail

[citation needed]

(plus, do ya got any good tips on the 2013 MLB World Series ?)

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (1)

magic maverick (2615475) | about a year ago | (#43918039)

Bananas. [wikipedia.org]

Or maybe I misread the GP.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917311)

Generalization has some benefits (labeling food "organic", for instance)

That's not how it works, you can still have rotation with GMO crops.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (0)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year ago | (#43917345)

Because different crops are different. They require different care, different equipment, and have different market demands... blah, blah, blah

That giant whooshing sound is GP's subtle humor flying right over your head. Ironically, you and he are saying the same thing - "profit". I think his version was ever so much more artful.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (2)

westlake (615356) | about a year ago | (#43916933)

Why stick to a single crop and not rotate like days of old?

Taking land out of production has never been an easy choice to make. Each crop in the rotation has its own labor and material cost. Different skills. Different tools. It adds up.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43917015)

Why stick to a single crop and not rotate like days of old?

What makes you think that modern farmers don't rotate crops? I grew up on a farm. My parents and all my neighbors rotated crops regularly, and still do.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917489)

Most corn acreage isn't rotated sustainably. 30% of U.S. cropland is planted in Corn, and there are counties in the U.S. where corn has been planted on 64% of the acres for 4 or 5 out of 5 years (source = satellite data analysis by USDA). 5% to 10% is the maximum acreage in the U.S. that should be planted in corn at any one time. Corn planted year after year degrades the soil, and results in much greater use of fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation water and other inputs. As corn is one of the least-efficient at utilizing fertilizer, about 2/3rds of the fertilizer runs off into waterways, creating all kinds of problems that farmers say are just not their problem.

Crop rotation systems are scalable and work well, however the U.S. subsidizes commodity corn in various ways (crop subsidies, insurance subsidies, demand mandates such as the Ethanol mandate which as 40% of our corn production going to ethanol, etc). But there are basically no subsidies for livestock, which are essential for sustainable agriculture. See the Union of Concerned Scientists recent report at http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solutions/advance-sustainable-agriculture/healthy-farm-vision.html .

Scientists get it. Consumers get it. The only people who don't seem to get it are those who are captive to the system and benefit from the externalized costs such as pollution and the loss of topsoil...which won't effect this year's Profit and Loss statement, but will affect all our children. Buy local, support farmers who are using sustainable agriculture, support a level playing field for federal subsidies (either eliminate them or at least make them support sustainable agriculture) and call B.S. on those that say monocropping is the only way to feed the world. The only people it feeds are their short-term shareholders.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (3, Informative)

t4ng* (1092951) | about a year ago | (#43917797)

For the last 4 years I have lived right next to two crop fields that are worked, but not owned, by a local family that has been farming here for many generations. They have never rotated crops in the time I've been here. One field is always corn, and the other is always squash. Every year they plow in fertilizer, flood irrigate, and spray who-knows-what on everything. What's more, they rarely harvest any of it. At the end of harvest, they always tell us we are welcome to pick whatever we want. Did that once and never did it again; everything was completely flavorless. Then they plow it all under and do it again the next year!

I can think of only two possible reasons for this behavior. One is that they would lose subsidies and the land owner would lose tax discounts if they don't grow anything on the land. The other is the big increase in deportations since Obama got in office and tougher state level regulations have made getting farm labor to pick stuff more difficult.

With millions of pounds of food uneaten and wasted every day around the world, I don't think crop yield is a problem. Economics and logistics are the problems in getting food from the field to the people that need it, when they need it. The business model of companies like Monsanto, getting rid of small local farmers in favor of big industrial farms and prosecuting seed savers, makes those problems worse, not better.

Re:Farmer types, a question for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917051)

Crop rotation is still typical in the midwest. Corn one year and soybeans the next. Sometimes wheat, but less so than in the past due to relative price changes. There's some corn after corn, but additional years present pest risks and stresses the operation.

cool (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916747)

awesome

Much more progressive... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916803)

... Than using litigation and intimidation to expand it's footprint.

Come on guys, have some ethics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916811)

I know that programmers don't really have an ethics requirement like traditional engineers, but do we really need one in order to skip working for a company that stands a good chance of (possibly unintentionally) killing off our whole species? Everything I read about Monsanto points to them being a strong contender for the Famine version of the end of civilization. This corporation is way more evil than Microsoft or the RIAA.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916839)

Can you link to the peer-reviewed scholarly studies that make these claims?

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916919)

I know that programmers don't really have an ethics requirement like traditional engineers, but do we really need one in order to skip working for a company that stands a good chance of (possibly unintentionally) killing off our whole species? Everything I read about Monsanto points to them being a strong contender for the Famine version of the end of civilization. This corporation is way more evil than Microsoft or the RIAA.

So Monsanto is trying to (possibly intentionally) start an extinction-grade famine, by providing products to allow farmers to grow more food with less energy, on less land? Damn, they are so evil that their evil plots are actually amazingly un-evil ones!

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43917013)

No, the argument is that we'll end up with a global GMO monoculture, which will lack the variety to withstand some new pest or other threat, and then we'll have a global famine.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (2)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917205)

Why is a GM crop more likely to become a monoculture than a non GM crop?

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43917397)

Cross-pollination? (Or, rather, lack thereof?)

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (0)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917455)

Why is GM more or likely to cross-pollinate?

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917565)

Stop trolling. You may think your questions cast doubt, when in reality they show how little you actually know.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917605)

I admit I don't know, that is why I asked the question (shocking, I know). So instead of giving a non-answer like that, perhaps you could actually answer the question.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year ago | (#43917493)

Because of the unknown effects of fiddling with genetics in a wholesale fashion. You go from normal strain (Roundup kills it) to GMO strain (which laughs at roundup) in a single generation. Maybe you introduce an unanticipated new vulnerability to something else through the genetic fiddling, maybe not, but you have now cleared all the fields of every other strain, including those that might have had the ability quickly adapt to some new pest or blight.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917721)

OK, I understand that. But isn't that a farming practices problem, and not a GM problem? GM may have some hidden flaw, but the creation of a monoculture is because farmers did it, and not because of some inherent property of being GM, right?

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43917969)

I suppose that depends on how much genetic variety there is in in the GM crop.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (2)

AlphaWolf_HK (692722) | about a year ago | (#43918967)

If you actually look at what they're doing, making plants roundup ready requires very little change to their genome. On the other hand, selective selection (the process used since time immemorial to modify plants to our liking) modifies the plant's entire genome.

I mean there's a tiny change that you're protesting, but you're just fine with big changes which have an even larger category of unknowns. I can already think of a number of weeds that are resistant to roundup, and that just occurred through natural selection. But a GM plant that does it with hardly any change at all is evil?

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

perceptual.cyclotron (2561509) | about a year ago | (#43918003)

A "GM crop," taken generically, is not more likely to become a monoculture. However, the policies and intentions of the purveyors of GM crops are quite directly geared toward monocultures, both in the pursuit of the one-true-crop in contrast to a diversified genetic portfolio, and in the efforts to ensure that the seed for year N comes from the lab, rather than from breeding at N-1.

This is yet another mistaken correspondence between the technology and the industry. The technology itself entails rather little. Starting from GM, you could just as readily construct arguments for either an increase or a decrease in the likelihood of monocultures. The industry however, has constrained the application of the technology in such a way that monocultures are not just a likely outcome, but an engineered and intended one.

Irish Potato Famine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917883)

Depend on one crop as it is the best, highest yield, most nutritious, (mostly) disease hardy, works great.

Up to the point where a single pest can wipe out entire crops because that is the only species planted. Irish much?

This is why we have the doomsday seed bank.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about a year ago | (#43917165)

Better data storage= less likely Monsanto causes the Zombie Wheat Apocalypse, again.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917209)

What do you mean "we don't really have an ethics requirement like traditional engineers"; if engineers had one, we wouldn't have weapons, leave alone atomic ones... clearly someone violated that requirement there...
On the other side, you may not have an 'industry requirement' but you're still human and you are entitled to your own ethics requirement.

I live in the DC area, lots of 'government contractors' around here (mostly DOD) and I have made a decision for my own that I will *NOT* work for the likes of Boeing, Raytheon and the likes that make things to blow people to smithereens... I know that limits my options for employment in this area but at least I didn't part-take in creating instruments of death...

P.S.: actually, I am a huge hypocrite because I completely agree with you: this company is one of the most evil companies in the world with a ruthless pursuit of profit. That being said, I do own stock in this company specifically for this reason... so yes, I am a hypocrite (but I can dream, can't I?)

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (2, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#43917373)

Everything I read about Monsanto points to them being a strong contender for the Famine version of the end of civilization.

See, it's just this kind of hyperbole that drove me out of the environmental movement for good. It got to be worse than a fucking religion. Every company was evil incarnate, every issue was the *end of the world*, every compromise or attempt at reason was deemed insufficient. Between the wild-eyed Chicken Littles and the misanthropes who seemed to secretly want all humans to commit suicide to save beautiful mother earth, I realized that this was one aspect of the left-wing that I didn't want to be a part of anymore.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | about a year ago | (#43917459)

If my facebook feed is any indication, conservatives seem to hate Monsato more than liberals. I see tons more posts about Organic this-and-that and "natural herbal remedies" from my conservative friends. I assume it's their distrust of liberal scientific stuff and general yearning for the good-old-days. It's possible my friends are statistical outliers though.

Re:Come on guys, have some ethics (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about a year ago | (#43917623)

You are confusing conservative leading individuals with the conservative leaning political party which is typically the party of big business (only the scary big businesses as there is a different party for the other big businesses). Also when looking at agriculture related bills the split typically isn't along party lines but more along rural vs urban.

schitzophrenic summary. (3, Interesting)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#43916841)

so the company is using data analytics to determine where it should plant crops most efficiently? thats pretty cool. Chances are great theyve been using analytics heavily in their biosciences divisions for quite some time, considering output from computational modeling software is rarely terse.

this might seem naive, but wasnt this the grand plan for the future? a supercrop that never needs to worry about weeds or bugs? that grows tens of times larger than its regular counterpart? I have a legitimately difficult time bashing monsanto but ive followed lots of slashdot discussion on the matter and it seems to be a pretty common thread.

are they really targeting farmers for intentional litigation somehow? there are plenty of other corn seeds besides roundup ready for example that farmers could decide to plant, and the only evidence ive seen to date was some guy who went to the supreme court to challenge the fact that he knowingly saved proprietary seeds. solution: vote with dollars, dont buy proprietary monsanto seeds.

is GM food dangerous? i really cant find any scientific data on the subject...maybe thats because research hasnt been/is still being conducted, but so far i havent seen a public crisis that indicates GM is a bad thing, other than a tentative link to colony collapse disorder.

does monsanto have a history of using analytics for some nefarious purpose? Other than creating superplants i cant think of any.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year ago | (#43916895)

so the company is using data analytics to determine where it should plant crops most efficiently? thats pretty cool. Chances are great theyve been using analytics heavily in their biosciences divisions for quite some time, considering output from computational modeling software is rarely terse.

this might seem naive, but wasnt this the grand plan for the future? a supercrop that never needs to worry about weeds or bugs? that grows tens of times larger than its regular counterpart? I have a legitimately difficult time bashing monsanto but ive followed lots of slashdot discussion on the matter and it seems to be a pretty common thread.
 

The beef you're *supposed* to have with Monsanto, is that while everyone is rallying around the incredibly remote possibility of cross-pollinated crops becoming infertile or unkillable or somewhere in-between (the somewhere in-between has been the outcome so far, cross pollinated plants act just like any other species, they are always of the same species and arbitrarily inherit a combination of traits from both progenitors) the amazingly more likely scenario of a devastating form of TB or bird flu or Ebola to ravage the globe will sneak up on us unannounced. Goddamn you, Monsanto, for distracting us!

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#43916955)

Quite frankly the beef(s) *I* have is that is with suing farmers whose crops show the "patented" gene through cross pollination (because that's how nature works) and forcing GM farmers to strict contracts that don't allow them to keep seed for next years crop.

There are a lot of STINKY business practices going on here. It isn't just about the fact that they've bribed officials to write laws outlawing GM labeling or bribed officials to pass a law that makes sure they have no liability for *anything*.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917035)

Can you point to a specific case where a farmer was sued by Monsanto for what was legitimately a case of GM seed blowing into a non-GM farm?

Every case I've read about this has ended with the facts being determined that the farmer was lying. Here is a rather damning one (pay attention to sections 124-126): http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2001/2001fct256/2001fct256.html [fct-cf.gc.ca]

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1, Insightful)

dragonsomnolent (978815) | about a year ago | (#43917269)

I read through the decision, and it seems this to be the most telling part: "Thus a farmer whose field contains seed or plants originating from seed spilled into them, or blown as seed, in swaths from a neighbour's land or even growing from germination by pollen carried into his field from elsewhere by insects, birds, or by the wind, may own the seed or plants on his land even if he did not set about to plant them. He does not, however, own the right to the use of the patented gene, or of the seed or plant containing the patented gene or cell." It then goes on to state that the thing the defendant did wrong was using the plants that were accidentally planted on his land. In other words, the court seems to have decided that he should have destroyed the crops on his field after discovering that Monsanto's stuff had inadvertently been planted there. Now, I'm not going to say that Monsanto didn't have the laws on their side, because apparently they did, but to say those laws are right is another matter. Your assertion that the defendant was lying is kinda bold, as it implies he stole the seeds or had planted roudup ready canola and kept the seeds, when even the judge says (in paragraph 125) " That clearly is not Mr. Schmeiser's case in relation to his 1998 crop. I have found that he seeded that crop from seed saved in 1997 which he knew or ought to have known was Roundup tolerant, and samples of plants from that seed were found to contain the plaintiffs' patented claims for genes and cells. His infringement arises not simply from occasional or limited contamination of his Roundup susceptible canola by plants that are Roundup resistant. He planted his crop for 1998 with seed that he knew or ought to have known was Roundup tolerant." The farmer's concern (now confirmed by the decision) is that if Monsanto's crap blows onto your field is hosed, because though Monsanto may come and collect the errand plants, it's not like they glow in the dark and are easy to spot.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917377)

The guy did not get sued (and lose) because his crop was 'accidentally' pollinated by his neighbors plants, he got sued (and lost) because he intentionally killed off all of the non GM crop, and kept the seeds from what was left. That is why the phrase 'knew or ought to have known was Roundup tolerant' was in there, and that is why he was sued and lost.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

dragonsomnolent (978815) | about a year ago | (#43917421)

Actually he only sprayed some of his crops, not all, and found that some of those crops were GM. His argument wasn't that he kept the seeds, it was that the seeds were his to keep, as the plants grew on his land. Again, that's a legal argument I'm not trying to get into, the moral argument I'm making is "If you are a farmer, and Monsanto's stuff gets into your stuff, why should you be on the hook?" Also, how do you know if your stuff contains the GM from Monsanto without killing your crop?

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917551)

And again, he was not 'on the hook' because Monsanto's stuff got into his stuff. he was on the hook because of HIS actions. He knew exactly what he was doing - farmers don't routinely try to kill 3 or 4 acres of their crop without a good reason.

There is a reason that this case is one of the very few that people can find where Monsanto sued a farmer - because it just does not happen like people like to claim. There are NO cases where the actions of the farmer (and not simple cross-pollination) are not the key.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

dragonsomnolent (978815) | about a year ago | (#43917711)

And, again, I'm not having the legal argument about what the law says he should have done. My question, which you still haven't answered, is morally, why should he have destroyed his entire crop because a few rows of it contained GM stuff from Monsanto, whether he knew it or not? Because, again, how do you know it's Roundup Ready without spraying your whole field with Roundup? Is Monsanto going to reimburse the farmer for his whole crop being unusable due to this cross pollination? Even the court recognizes that the plants came there via means other than the farmer deliberately planting them. His argument was that because he didn't sign anything with Monsanto, and the plants came there through no deliberate action on his part, they were his. I agree with him, you may not, the law may not, but just because it's legal, doesn't make it right.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917989)

Nobody said he had to destroy his entire crop (or any part of his crop). Nobody said he was required to know if his crop had been cross-pollinated or not. What they said was that he DID know (because of his actions). There is no indication that had he not intentionally isolated the GM crop he would have been sued. Surely there are many farmers in that situation (cross pollination), yet nobody can find a case where they were sued.

He admitted he intentionally sprayed 3 or 4 acres to see if they were RoundUp ready. Why would he do that? Either he was opposed to GM, in which case he should have voluntarily destroyed the GM crop he found (and possible sue Monsanto and/or his neighbors), or he wanted to use the GM crop, which he knew he was not entitled to.

There are many places where everything hinges on what you did or did not know. That is why so many laws have the phrase 'knew or should have known' in them.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

dragonsomnolent (978815) | about a year ago | (#43918065)

Ok, as another poster already said, there is an article on /. here that shows weeds naturally developed resistance. Go read through that article, lots of interesting things in there. And yes, indeed, Monsanto did say they wanted his seed stores destroyed. Again, however, you fail to address my question: The farmer knew they were resistant, he knew they blew into his field from somewhere, big f'ing deal. His argument, which I ask you to clearly and logically counter is this: "They grew on my land, they are mine". Can you rationally explain to me why that should not be the case without saying "because the laws say so".

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43918271)

Rationality does not matter in a land governed by laws. Only laws matter. Whether it's morally correct or not is trivial. It is whether or not it is permissible according to the courts. Like it or not, that's the society we live in.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

dragonsomnolent (978815) | about a year ago | (#43918323)

At the risk of invoking Godwin's Law, Germany 1930's. 'Nuff said

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (3, Funny)

Solandri (704621) | about a year ago | (#43917745)

1) The Schmeiser case was a civil trial. The standard of evidence used by the judges was "on the balance" ("a preponderance of the evidence" in the U.S.). Basically, which side convinced the judges slightly more. The Canadian Supreme Court's ruling on it was split 5-4, so it's questionable to claim anything from the decision is "rather damning."

2) The Supreme Court put aside the award of Schmeiser's profits to Monsanto, and fined him just $1. Their reasoning was that while Schmeiser may have used Monsanto's GM seed and either deliberately or unwittingly helped it to spread to his fields, he did not benefit from it in any way for the simple reason that he did not spray Roundup on his crops. He sprayed it in the areas surrounding his fields to kill weeds, and he sprayed it in a small section of one field to determine if it had been contaminated. But he did not otherwise use it on his crop fields. In other words, Monsanto's seed did not benefit him in any way, and there was no motive for him to have acted with malicious intent as Monsanto claimed. Monsanto's hypothesized version of events (where Schmeiser attempted to create a Roundup-resistant canola strain without paying the licensing fees) is most likely baseless for this reason.

3) The court decision you cite took Monsanto's word that resistance to Roundup could not develop naturally. It thus found that Schmeiser "should have known" that the canola which survived Roundup in the ditches had Monsanto's patented gene, and he should have treated it as contraband. However, it's since been shown that Monsanto was wrong [slashdot.org] , and Roundup-resistance can arise naturally in plants. Schmeiser's behavior of testing and putting aside seed from the contaminated field can thus be explained as him believing that perhaps he had a new strain of naturally Roundup-resistant canola. It doesn't have to be Monsanto's explanation that he knew he had Roundup Ready seed and was secretly and deliberately trying to incorporate it into his crop.

4) The court accepted Monsanto's explanation that seed which fell off of trucks could not travel the distance from the roadway to the field. It cites testimony from a Monsanto engineer (paragraphs 117-118) that seed which fell from a truck couldn't have fallen and been blown that far. I find that extremely dubious for the simple reason that the roadway is not limited to one truck and the wind. Other cars travel on the same roads. I have seen debris blown for miles along a road as other cars pass by and stir it up over and over. The court also incorrectly pegged 1997 (when Schmeiser first noticed the canola which survived spraying with Roundup) as the year of the contamination, and thus found it difficult to believe so much of Schmeiser's property had been contaminated so quickly merely from seed blown by the wind. But Schmeiser didn't spray Roundup throughout the ditches. He sprayed it only where he saw weeds (mostly around utility poles where workers couldn't keep the vegetation cut). The contamination could have begun years earlier, and only came to his attention in 1997.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917047)

Show a single case where a farmer was sued because his crops 'showed' the patented crop, where the farmer was not causing that to happen (by intentionally killing off all the non-GM crop).

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (3, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43917117)

Quite frankly the beef(s) *I* have is that is with suing farmers whose crops show the "patented" gene through cross pollination

Perhaps before you have a "beef" with someone, you should spend a few minutes looking at the facts. This mythology about Monsanto suing farmers for cross pollination comes up regularly on Slashdot, and no one is ever able to cite a single case of Monsanto actually suing anyone for that sort of unintentional infringement.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917413)

This isn't myth r-tard, this is a BFD. also the fact that they are so against labeling is a red flag, since the capitalist system is supposed to work when the consumer has the information about what they are buying, by not labeling them they are undermining our choice, and cheating the system.

Here are just a couple links you so lazily failed to look for... so lmgtfy
http://www.dailytech.com/Monsanto+Defeats+Small+Farmers+in+Critical+Bioethics+Class+Action+Suit/article24118.htm
http://nelsonfarm.net/issue.htm

oh and lets not forget monsantos recent wheat issue.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2013/06/05/monsanto-says-gm-wheat-isolated-incident-but-lawyers-bet-there-will-be-more/

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917957)

Your first link is of farmers suing Monsanto. They lost, and they lost, actually, because... Monsanto isn't threatening anyone accidently growing GM crops.

The second is a dispute where Monsanto clearly does believe the farmers were deliberately growing GM crops, by saving seeds, in violation of a patent agreement the farmers had agreed to.

The third is completely irrrelevent, nobody's suing anyone else.

Finally, your comment about labelling is stupid and you're a stupid person. The market is supposed to be about rational choices. There's no practical difference between GMO and non-GMO to an end consumer. But forcing labelling would both undermine the legitimate labelling that's going on, and be meaningless - are you going to test every grain that goes into a sack of flour? If not, how do you know there's no cross pollenization?

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (3, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43917257)

they've bribed officials to write laws outlawing GM labeling or bribed officials to pass a law that makes sure they have no liability for *anything*.

Could you please explain what you are talking about? What laws are these? There was recently a ballot initiative in California to require GMO labeling, and it was voted down by the voters not the politicians. Food labeling should be based on science, not superstition, and even for those that want to avoid GMO, it is unnecessary since it is already perfectly legal to label food as "Organic" or "Non-GMO", and since these foods sell for a premium, anyone selling them would be foolish not to label them as such.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | about a year ago | (#43917359)

In all fairness, labeling it Genetically Modified would be scientifically accurate. The assumption that Genetic Modification is a horribly evil thing is certainly superstition, but I consider that a separate issue.

I'd actually like to know a whole lot more than that myself. What is the point of the Genetic Modifications? If it helps the crops to grow in more diverse soils or produce more food that's good. If it's to make it more tolerant to various (Monsato brand) poisonous insecticides then I'm a little bit more worried.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

cangrejoinmortal (1315615) | about a year ago | (#43918577)

It is actually a herbicide and is not poisonous to us (or at least that is wath the govt. studies tell us) but is poisonous to all plant life and it all ends up in the sea, which is very very worrying.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43918721)

In all fairness, labeling it Genetically Modified would be scientifically accurate.

In all fairness, requiring them to be labeled as GMO would not be scientific all all.

The assumption that Genetic Modification is a horribly evil thing is certainly superstition, but I consider that a separate issue.

It is not a separate issue when people are trying to subvert the government regulatory process to promote their superstitions.

I'd actually like to know a whole lot more than that myself.

Just because you would like to know doesn't mean other people should be required to tell you. Far more people are concerned about whether their food is kosher or halal. Should we have government regulations requiring food to be labeled as "non-halal"? Of course not, because there is no nutritional difference. Butchers that prepare their meat using kosher or halal methods should be free to advertise them as such, but the government should stay out of it. Same with GMO.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917103)

yes... because as everyone knows, if there is 1 thing life and DNA NEVER does is mutate and change on its own. Maybe if there were some long term study of these GMOs people wouldn't be so distracted by them.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917253)

Well we can certainly damn them for using US diplomats to try and strong-arm their best interests onto European countries.

And we only know about that thanks to Wikileaks and Bradly Manning. [wikipedia.org]

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916971)

I'm not sure about all of that, but try capitalization in the near future.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (2)

diamondmagic (877411) | about a year ago | (#43917029)

The beef most people want you to have with Monsanto is that they're out to monopolize crop planting and eliminate organic food, or something like that, or that GM crops are somehow unhealthy. It's not so much beef as BS.

As far as I can tell, the beef Slashdot collectively has with Monsanto is that they think, like software patents, that they can patent just about anything and sue anyone purportedly using it, even if there's never been any commercial transaction, even if it's an organic farm.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (3, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year ago | (#43917629)

The beef most people want you to have with Monsanto is that they're out to monopolize crop planting and eliminate organic food, or something like that, or that GM crops are somehow unhealthy. It's not so much beef as BS.

[citation needed]
Profit, not to mention a regulatory environment that might generously be called ineffective, has driven a headlong rush down a path with a staggering array of potential problems; environmental, nutritional, etc. No, nobody has died from eating GM corn, yet, but the hubris required to ignore the potentially disastrous consequences is well beyond the "what the fuck were you thinking" mark, IMO.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

cangrejoinmortal (1315615) | about a year ago | (#43918851)

My personal beef with monsanto is that they sell a chemical that is terrible for vegetable life and that ends up in the sea killing algae, phytoplankton and what not. Besides they sell GM (not intrinsically bad, I agree) seeds that make economically viable to use more and more of this nasty thing. GM could be used to make faster growing plants, that would reduce the need for herbicides (not desirable weed wouldn't be able to compete with crops) and be actually not so freaking destructive. But, hey! guess who sells the herbicide?

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917073)

this might seem naive, but wasnt this the grand plan for the future? a supercrop that never needs to worry about weeds or bugs? that grows tens of times larger than its regular counterpart? I have a legitimately difficult time bashing monsanto but ive followed lots of slashdot discussion on the matter and it seems to be a pretty common thread.

Yes, a bit Naive. You are confusing alleged end goals with means.
Just because I say "I am trying to save the world" doesn't make it true. And if I create a product even with good intentions, that does not mean its effective or safe. That said, I'm not sure if anyone will argue that Monsanto actually HAS "good intentions"... neutral/selfish at best.

are they really targeting farmers for intentional litigation somehow? there are plenty of other corn seeds besides roundup ready for example that farmers could decide to plant, and the only evidence ive seen to date was some guy who went to the supreme court to challenge the fact that he knowingly saved proprietary seeds. solution: vote with dollars, dont buy proprietary monsanto seeds.

They do sue farmers who save seeds even if they didn't BUY Monsanto seeds, but simply had their plants cross pollinated with Monsanto's product. Its an easy enough google query.

is GM food dangerous? i really cant find any scientific data on the subject...maybe thats because research hasnt been/is still being conducted, but so far i havent seen a public crisis that indicates GM is a bad thing, other than a tentative link to colony collapse disorder.

The reason you don't see studies pointing out issues with Monsanto's products is because to use them you need to sign a EULA (effectively) which strictly prohibits you from publishing anything against their products (or even testing them at least in certain ways).

solution: vote with dollars, dont buy proprietary monsanto seeds.

I 100% agree that people should vote with their dollars! However, farmers being sued didn't necessarily buy anything from Monsanto, so they CANT. And if they keep GMO's from being labeled, they are keeping the consumer in the dark and therefore eliminating the end consumer's right to vote with their dollars too!

So if this company is so good/neutral and the GMOs are so safe, why is there such a level of (can't think of a better word) paranoia on Monsanto's part? If there is nothing wrong with GMOs why oppose labeling? If its all so safe why prohibit information to be put out form independent studies?

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

quonsar (61695) | about a year ago | (#43917163)

proprietary seeds.

heh.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

t4ng* (1092951) | about a year ago | (#43918125)

Here is an interview [occupymonsanto360.org] with a formerly pro-GMO scientist talking about why he is against GMO now. He claims the entire GMO field is operating on a 70 year old hypothesis of genetics that has since been proven wrong; and that being wrong about it can have some serious consequences.

Re:schitzophrenic summary. (1)

cangrejoinmortal (1315615) | about a year ago | (#43918479)

GM food is not dangerous per se (at least not right now) but the thing is that the main current use for GM tech in agriculture is to make plants resistant to what is basically the most efficient chemical for plant extermination (apparently not much of a poison for us). Roundup ends up in the sea and kills vegetal plankton, which is added complexity to the ecological disaster the oceans already face. You most probably won't grow a third arm from eating roundup ready plants, but if irresponsible pollution bothers you, then you avoid GM food because your ethical principles.

great (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916887)

using IT to jam GM crops up your ass whether you like it or not.

Fuck these people.

Re:great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916903)

Would you prefer the crops that use nuclear physicists to create random mutations using radiation? Because a lot of the food you eat came about through THAT process.

Re:great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43916927)

That's a huge false equivalency. Non-GM foods that come through random mutation via evolution have been tested... over millions of years tested. There is plenty of time to weed out the harmful.

Re:great (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year ago | (#43917005)

That's a huge false equivalency. Non-GM foods that come through random mutation via evolution have been tested... over millions of years tested. There is plenty of time to weed out the harmful.

And you misunderstand the OP; radiation or other mutagens *have* been used to create food crops that are on dinner tables around the world, this process has been going on for some 80 years. These are not labeled as GM... Before that, single-generation mutations (highly selective breeding) has been in use for hundreds of years, resulting in untested (by your standards) food going into the mouths of just about everyone in a developed/developing country for the past 300 years. Modern GM does go a far bit beyond either of those techniques because of the ability to switch many genes at once, for a particular purpose, but don't fool yourself into thinking that this is the first time modern man has eaten "new to planet earth" food.

Re:great (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about a year ago | (#43917183)

The point is they should be.

Re:great (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43917427)

And you misunderstand the OP; radiation or other mutagens *have* been used to create food crops that are on dinner tables around the world, this process has been going on for some 80 years.

Uff, any citation on that? As far as I know, the only radiation treatment that has been put to some use in agriculture was to prolong the shelf life of the produce.

Re:great (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43917747)

And you misunderstand the OP; radiation or other mutagens *have* been used to create food crops that are on dinner tables around the world, this process has been going on for some 80 years.

Uff, any citation on that?

Sure. Here you go: Mutation Breeding [wikipedia.org] . At the bottom of the page is a list of food crops produced using these techniques.

Re:great (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#43917175)

Non-GM foods that come through random mutation via evolution have been tested... over millions of years tested.

Except that evolution doesn't select for plants that are deliciously edible and nutritious. It selects for the opposite: plants that use poisons, bitter tastes, or other strategies to avoid being eaten.

Re:great (2)

Kazman20 (2935619) | about a year ago | (#43917249)

except it does, it often selects for attractiveness examples include; attracting birds and others to eat fruit thereby moving the seeds, bees to drink nectar to spread the pollen, or flies in the case of others , ants to live in and on a tree to defend it from other predators, and you can keep going. nature generally solves each problem in many different ways.

Re:great (2)

afeeney (719690) | about a year ago | (#43917323)

True for some plants but not others. Most plants with seeds (fruits, grains) need to be delicious and nutritious so their seeds get excreted some distance from the original plant so that they don't compete for light and nutrients. Only leafy plants (the tops of root vegetables like potatoes, spinach, etc.) tend to be bitter or poisonous.

Re:great (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917365)

Non-GM foods that come through random mutation via evolution have been tested... over millions of years tested.

Except that evolution doesn't select for plants that are deliciously edible and nutritious. It selects for the opposite: plants that use poisons, bitter tastes, or other strategies to avoid being eaten.

This is actually a misconception. The reason that many plants produce "deliciously edible and nutritious" fruit is that they use the animal eating the fruit to spread the seeds (critter eats fruit, goes somewhere, seeds leave the digestive system). This is where most of our food crops come from, and why we use them as food crops in the first place. Bitter and poisonous plants either use another method to spread their seeds, like having them blow away in the wind, or use the taste and poison to select which animal spreads it's seeds, like how the capsaicin in peppers is painful for a small mammal to eat, but does nothing to birds, meaning birds would eat the peppers, and spread their seeds farther than a small mammal could.

they're still big AG (4, Insightful)

jsepeta (412566) | about a year ago | (#43916987)

Just because Monsanto invests in IT as a competitive advantage doesn't mean they're not acting like an Agricultural bully. It may be great for stockholders, but they're threatening the entire world's food supply by modifying plant DNA so that one year's crop cannot be used to plant next year's crop. That's not playing GOD, that's playing Shiva, the god of destruction.

Re:they're still big AG (2, Insightful)

bws111 (1216812) | about a year ago | (#43917151)

Wait a second. If they are modifying the DNA so the plants can't reproduce, then what are all these stories of Monsanto suing thousands of farmers because their crops were 'accidentaly' pollinated by GM crops about?

Oh wait, I know. The only thing preventing this years crop from being used to plant next years crop is a contract, and not DNA. Your 'concern', just like the stories of supposed lawsuits, is pure FUD.

Re:they're still big AG (1, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43917285)

> modifying plant DNA so that one year's crop cannot be used to plant next year's crop

Uh no, they are not doing that. What you describe is a GURT technology, which has never been commercialized, and it's highly doubtful that it ever will be.

http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/terminator-seeds.aspx [monsanto.com]

Re:they're still big AG (1)

cangrejoinmortal (1315615) | about a year ago | (#43919793)

They've stopped modifying DNA to achieve that (mostly because of ill public opinion on 'terminator' seeds), now they use lawyers to hunt down and sue anyone who keeps one of their seeds for the next season.

oh the horror! (1, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43917149)

They make better crops, increase productivity, reduce pesticide use, and now they even use IT to aid in their nefarious plans! Oh the horror if it!

Re:oh the horror! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917303)

Stenvar -- didn't you get that memo?!! Monsanto is one of the companies that we've been told to dislike... because they're bad.... and stuff... oh, and they're a corporation! we hate those, don't we! Oh, and they're a really big corporation... and you know what that means... that takes these guys worse than Hitler! And you don't want people to think you like Hitler, do you Stenvar?

Re:oh the horror! (1)

crtreece (59298) | about a year ago | (#43918437)

make better crops, increase productivity

Possibly by some definitions of "better". Higher yield, longer storage life, possibly. Better tasting, more nutritious, that's arguable.

reduce pesticide use

That doesn't seem to be the case. Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires [reuters.com]

Re:oh the horror! (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43919103)

Possibly by some definitions of "better". Higher yield, longer storage life, possibly. Better tasting, more nutritious, that's arguable.

You're free not to buy their stuff if you don't like it. But most people seem to like it otherwise they'd be out of business.

That doesn't seem to be the case. Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires

That particular news story is poorly written and politically biased. Even the title incorrectly supposes that this is unexpected. Of course, you need to keep developing new GMOs regularly in order to keep benefiting from them.

Re:oh the horror! (1)

White Flame (1074973) | about a year ago | (#43919691)

You're free not to buy their stuff if you don't like it.

That's kind of the rankle. Allegations are that the first thing they try to do when entering a new area is to buy up all the existing seed suppliers, so you're not free to not buy their stuff even in the supply side.

GM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917155)

when i saw the letters GM i thought what does General Motors have to do with crops? then i thought about General Mills. not everyone knows acronyms. had to read the fine article to see "genetically modified" = GM. not trolling, just saying.

"Infamous". What biased crap. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43917193)

Has /. become the most biased source of hate speech on the Internet these days?

Just another, "I hate the man" story from a bunch of kiddies.

Re:"Infamous". What biased crap. (2)

HeckRuler (1369601) | about a year ago | (#43917667)

Dude, have you even read the wiki page on them? [slashdot.org] There's a lot of fear-mongering from the people that fear anything to do with genetics, but Monsanto is your typical giant evil corporation. They're so big that regulatory capture is a problem. They've been caught red handed doing various nefarious stuff over the years. Honestly, any such corporation that large is bound to have bad eggs in them and the money is going to be too good. But hey, they really have brought some innovation and better living to the populace. There's a reason that they're profitable and it's not entirely because of who they're in bed with. Roundup ready crops are a lot easier to farm. My uncle loves the stuff.

But if there was EVER a corporation that deserved scrutiny, it's Monsanto.

"Hate speech"? It's more like spotting the trend.

GE food labeling news... (3, Informative)

Uncle_Meataxe (702474) | about a year ago | (#43917409)

TFA mentions that Washington state has a ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods. Perhaps more importantly, Connecticut just passed a labeling law (http://grist.org/news/connecticut-will-label-gmos-if-you-do-too/).

The Connecticut bill includes a crucial requirement: the labeling requirement won’t actually go into effect until similar legislation is passed by at least four other states, one of which borders Connecticut.

Also note that 37 labeling proposals have been introduced in 21 states so far this year.

Re:GE food labeling news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43919317)

TFA mentions that Washington state has a ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods. Perhaps more importantly, Connecticut just passed a labeling law (http://grist.org/news/connecticut-will-label-gmos-if-you-do-too/).

The Connecticut bill includes a crucial requirement: the labeling requirement won’t actually go into effect until similar legislation is passed by at least four other states, one of which borders Connecticut.

Also note that 37 labeling proposals have been introduced in 21 states so far this year.

Since Obama signed the Monsanto protection act will any of these even be legally enforceable?

"Building better worlds" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43918275)

With a bit more luck, in a few years they'll decide to adopt an upside-down M (to commemorate the day they switched the flip) as their corporate logo -- and start focusing more on useful, future-proof research (such as involving XMs rather than GMs).

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