A lot of people seem to think the problem with Monsanto is the fact that they use a technology called GMO to produce the seeds that they sell. Some think this technology is in some way ‘bad,’ or ‘not natural,’ while others think it is a live-saver. My opinion is that like any technology it will have good and bad possible implementations. But let’s assume for a second that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the technology of GMO and talk about where Monsanto really gets its power from. The real problem with GMOs isn’t the technology that created them — it’s the artificial scarcity policy that disallows the market from correcting their mistakes. Monsanto’s evil because it is a monopoly.
Let’s say Monsanto makes a GMO strain of wheat that is Roundup resistant and hearty, but also contains a protein you don’t like. In a functioning market, another company would make a pesticide-resistant strain that maintained the protein ratio desired. Most of the legitimate complaints I’ve heard about GMOs are basically just engineering problems. More or less cost is involved, there are consequences for growers, storage, etc., but all these issues can probably be worked out in a way that satisfies. The problem is that, if any company or even an individual doing cross-breeding at home (cross-breeding is a GMO technology that humans have been using for ages), were to solve this problem, they would be liable for suit. Why? Because Monsanto has patents on the genes in its GMOs. That’s the problem. Essentially, they cribbed notes off Mother Nature and got the Patent Office to write a note saying a plant’s genome is now theirs. Which leads to absurd situations such as the one depicted in FOOD INC, where a farmer was sued for trying to save his own seeds.
Fundamentally, I’m optimistic about the possibility of GMOs to drastically increase yields, the health content of food, and profit for food producers over time. But only if competition and innovation are allowed.