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Some Pig! – Monsanto Seeks Patents on Breeding Herds of Pigs

Brian Thomas Fitzgerald Aug 10, 2005

It’s official. Monsanto Corporation is out to corner the world’s food supply as they pig-headedly set about hog-tying farmers with their monopoly plans. Not content to control the patents on pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified seeds, the corporate giant has made a move toward the barnyard in an attempt to own that most famous Monsanto invention – the pig.

Christoph Then, a Greenpeace researcher who monitors patent applications, recently uncovered a move by the multinational corporation to patent not only certain methods of breeding, but also the resulting herds of pigs themselves. The patent applications were published in February of 2005 by the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva.

“If these patents are granted, Monsanto can legally prevent breeders and farmers from breeding pigs whose characteristics are described in the patent claims, or force them to pay royalties,” said Then. “It’s a first step toward the same kind of corporate control of an animal line that Monsanto is aggressively pursuing with various grain and vegetable lines.”

Various parts of the applications rely on phrases such as “a pig offspring,” “a pig herd,” “a pig population” and “a swine herd” in describing what the company is attempting to patent. Should the applications be approved, the requests would essentially give ownership of the pigs, their offspring and the use of their genetic information for breeding purposes to Monsanto. Aside from fines, infringement of the patent could even result in imprisonment for offenders.

“Monsanto isn’t just seeking a patent for the method, they are seeking a patent on the actual pigs which are bred from this method,” said Then. “It’s an astoundingly broad and dangerous claim.”

Other portions of the patent are vague in description. In one patent application Monsanto describes very general methods of crossbreeding and selection that rely on artificial insemination and other breeding methods already in use. The main “invention” is nothing more than a particular combination of these elements designed to speed the breeding cycle for specific traits.

Monsanto hopes to use such methods to make the animals more commercially profitable. The multinational notes that, “The economic impact of the industry in rural America is immense. Annual farm sales typically exceed US$1 billion, while the retail value of pork sold to consumers reaches US$ 38 billion each year.”

In the last ten years Monsanto has spent about $10 billion buying up seed producers and companies in other sectors of the agricultural business. By claiming global monopoly patent rights throughout the entire food chain, Monsanto seeks to make farmers and food producers, and ultimately consumers, entirely dependent and reliant on one single corporate entity for a basic human need.