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Monsanto dominates America’s food chain with ruthless tactics, waging a debilitating war against small farmers. Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. No thanks: An anti-Monsanto crop circle made by farmers and volunteers in the Philippines. Gary Rinehart clearly remembers the summer day in 2002 when the stranger walked in and issued his threat.
Eagleville, Missouri, a tiny farm community 100 miles north of Kansas City. The Square Deal is a fixture in Eagleville, a place where farmers and townspeople can go for lightbulbs, greeting cards, hunting gear, ice cream, aspirin, and dozens of other small items without having to drive to a big-box store in Bethany, the county seat, 15 miles down Interstate 35. Everyone knows Rinehart, who was born and raised in the area and runs one of Eagleville’s few surviving businesses. The stranger came up to the counter and asked for him by name. Better come clean and settle with Monsanto, Rinehart says the man told him—or face the consequences. Rinehart was incredulous, listening to the words as puzzled customers and employees looked on. Like many others in rural America, Rinehart knew of Monsanto’s fierce reputation for enforcing its patents and suing anyone who allegedly violated them.
But Rinehart wasn’t a farmer. He wasn’t a seed dealer. He hadn’t planted any seeds or sold any seeds. He was angry that somebody could just barge into the store and embarrass him in front of everyone. You got the wrong guy. When the stranger persisted, Rinehart showed him the door.
On the way out the man kept making threats. Scenes like this are playing out in many parts of rural America these days as Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers’ co-ops, seed dealers—anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds. As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors.
Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. When asked about these practices, Monsanto declined to comment specifically, other than to say that the company is simply protecting its patents. One tool in protecting this investment is patenting our discoveries and, if necessary, legally defending those patents against those who might choose to infringe upon them. He said only a small number of cases ever go to trial.