Apple and Monsanto

I have had the "interesting" experience of being hectored about the evils of Monsanto by people using Apple computers. I hang out with a lot more programmers than farmers, and Apple makes trendy tools used by the former, while lowly and un-trendy farmers merely feed us from their boring little towns in fly-over country. Nobody is directly forced to use the production tools provided by either company, though both attack competitors vigorously in court, tilting the playing field in their favor, rather than competing purely on merit.

I use open source Linux, and eat vegetarian, so I am one of the people both companies tilt against. Neither is attacking me personally, though both affect me mostly negatively. I have bought Apple products for others, as well as corn fed meat for my omnivorous friends, so I am not hostile to these companies, except when they try to deny me the diversity I need. Apple has been much more hostile to my interests than Monsanto, so far.

Apple and Monsanto stock price for the last decade

Over the last 10 years, Monsanto's successful GMO products have grown the company 10x. Apple's iGizmos have grown the company 60x. Monsanto makes food for the poor. Apple makes entertainment toys for the yuppies. Both make it easier for people to become distracted, unempowered, sedentary diabetics. Fortunately, it is still possible to make other choices, and many people do.

My world needs more cropland reverting to nature, and healthy alternatives to fishing a collapsing ocean ecosystem. GMO is villified by the control freaks of the left and the right (who conveniently ignore the chemical/radiation mutagens that brought us their "natural" non-GMO varieties), but this is the only way we will develop crops that will produce more foods with more nutrients on less land. Beyond providing slightly less vulnerable software than Microsoft, Apple isn't doing anything significant to heal the planet, and in fact feeds landfills with hard-to-repair, hard-to-repurpose e-waste.

There are those who claim we should be supporting farmers more - well, "supporting farmers" (aka giving them unearned tax money as price supports) is what got us into this mess. If the intent of subsidies is to keep small, inefficient producers of commodity crops in business, the net effect is a cash bonanza for large producers and the large companies that provide their tools. This distorts the marketplace; the subsidy for the corn you consume as meat and sugars draws farmers away from crops like kale and beans that I eat, raising the prices for those, while encouraging the over-consumption of crap food, and creating vast amounts of lobbying cash to drive the distortions higher. This also occurs with software and media - drawing resources away from, and sometimes penalizing, creators who are not slaves of the mega-media cartels.

Monsanto has sued one Canadian farmer for using Roundup Ready Canola spread by pollenation. The farmer used Roundup to select plants in his fields that had been pollenated by Roundup Ready plants in neighboring fields; although both farmer and Monsanto spent time in court, no damages were awarded. This farmer intentionally used artificial selection to access the Monsanto patented genes, and chose to escalate to court rather than stop doing so. Other non-Monsanto customers, who did not artificially select, may have as much as 50% Roundup resistance due to cross-pollination, but I can find no instances where they have been sued.

Monsanto has sued 145 farmers between 1997 and 2013; about 9 farmers a year, mostly for using "saved seed" in violation of contract, out of the 250,000 farmers a year they do business with who are not sued. There are a few rather nasty cases, like the Bowman case that went to the Supreme Court in February 2013. Vernon Bowman, who has no contract with Monsanto, used soybeans from a food processor to grow a late crop of soybeans after his wheat was harvested. Because amost all soy grown these days is from Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" patented seed, Bowman could apply Monsanto Roundup to his fields and get the same benefits that other farmers paid Monsanto for under contract. So although Bowman did not violate a contract, he did violate the way patent law is interpreted by a fanatically pro-patent court system.

Since patents only benefit lawyers, and lawyers run the courts and the legislatures (and comprise 63% of US presidents), remaking the system to benefit non-lawyers (who comprise 99.8% of the population) is unlikely. Better to build new systems that don't depend on lawyers to function. It is amusing that so many non-lawyers are so passionately committed to relying on subsets of politician-lawyers to protect them from other politician-lawyers, but the first and foremost task of any lawyer is to peddle their product with soft or strident words. So we are saddled with a cadre of Apple fanatics attacking the companies whom farmers choose to do business with, while personally choosing to send money to the company with the world's highest market capitalization, responsible for a large fraction of all the anti-competitive lawsuits in the software and electronics industries.

Ah well. Everyone needs a hobby. For me, it is developing tools for healing the planet. For others, it is ineffective totalitarian slander. As long as the slanderers stuff their faces with carbs and their brains with crippling nonsense, they will be annoying but mostly harmless.

AppleMonsanto (last edited 2013-03-08 23:09:07 by KeithLofstrom)