The 'Monsanto Tax'

August 2012

There's a certain satisfaction in seeing a bully being given a taste of his own medicine.

Monsanto has long dealt severe legal sanctions against farmers it claims have “pirated” its seed. However, farmers in Brazil have decided two can play at that game, and the courts have agreed...

GM soya production in Brazil began illegally in 1998 with seeds smuggled in from Argentina. By 2005, so many farmers were using the GM seed that the Brazilian president reluctantly decided to legalise it.

That same year, Monsanto moved quickly to demand that Brazilian farmers who had purchased its soya must sign a contract pledging not to save GM seed for future crops: farmers must, therefore, pay for their soya seed every year. The Company in addition demanded a 2% royalty fee on the GM soya produced.

Then things got worse. Monsanto also sells non-GM soya seed in Brazil. This means that GM and non-GM soya require to be segregated. The company has, therefore, found a third way to extract money from anyone growing soya: if tests on non-GM soya reveal contamination with Monsanto's artificial DNA, farmers are required to pay the Company a further 3% fee.

This last fee is referred to as the “Monsanto tax” and appears to be a private tax on pollen!

However, farmers in Rio Grande Do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state, decided Monsanto had gone a step too far. They took the Company to court over its unjust demand that they must achieve the impossible, the separation of GM and non-GM soya.

In April 2012, the Rio Grande Do Sul courts ruled Monsanto's fees illegal. The Company was ordered, not only to stop collecting the levy, but to pay back, the sums it had extracted since 2004.

At that point, Monsanto was looking at a bill of some $2 billion.

Undaunted, the Brazilian supreme court has now decided that the ruling of the Rio Grande Do Sul court should apply to the whole of the country. Monsanto is now looking at a bill of $7.5 billion.

With profits of just under $1 billion for the quarter to 31 May, Monsanto will certainly feel the pinch repaying Brazilian farmers. There's also the delightful possibility that farmers and courts in other lands will decide that what's justice in Brazil should be justice for them too.

Monsanto has, of course, appealed the Brazilian court rulings.


An interesting example of what the absurd granting of patents on life can lead to.

You might like to follow the latest news on GM patents at, where you'll also find actions you can join in.

  • Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero, Monsanto faces $7.5 Billion Payout to Brazilian Farmers, Corporate Watch 28.06.12
  • Karen Stillerman, Monsanto Improves its Bottom Line. But Not Agriculture, Union of Concerned Scientists blog, 3.07.12

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