Truthout on the regime of rural surveillance and suspicion instituted by multinational seed companies:
The GMO regime has initiated a “new era of feudalism,” by powerful multinationals who have consolidated their control over the lives and practices of farmers everywhere.
Monsanto boasts one of the largest corporate security operations in the world, with agents working both openly and undercover in rural counties throughout the United States and Canada. Monsanto’s investigators show up at front doors, and in some cases in the middle of farmers fields, making accusations, brandishing surveillance photos and demanding to see the farmer’s private records or to be handed over their hard drives.
Monsanto also has its own toll-free tip-line (1-800-ROUNDUP) where farmers are invited to inform on their neighbors, as thousands have reportedly already done. “Instead of helping each other with barn-raisings and equipment sharing,” a CFS report states, “those caught saving seed, a practice that is hundreds of years old, were turned into ‘spies’ against their neighbors, replacing the atmosphere of cooperation with one of distrust and suspicion.” Critics accuse the company of fraying the delicate social fabric which holds farming communities together.
In its war against “seed pirates,” Monsanto employs methods that are better known in law enforcement and military intelligence than in the world of farming. Monsanto analyzes satellite images, USDA planting data and bank records in its effort to track down errant farmers.
As early as 2003, the corporation had a department of 75 employees (dubbed “the gene police”) with a budget of $10 million for the sole purpose of pursuing farmers for patent infringement. It has also hired a private investigation firm, McDowell & Associates in Saint Louis. This investment has produced ample returns over the years. As of 2006, farmers had paid the company an estimated $85 to $160 million in out-of-court settlements.
Of the hundreds of cases that Monsanto pursues every year, “the great majority end in out-of-court settlements. Farmers are terrified of standing up to the multinational and losing everything.”