Identifying Issues of Seed Piracy in your Community

In 1997, Monsanto started enforcing its patent rights in Canada through the Field Check Program. This was after two years of grower education across Canada about the rules and obligations associated with growing Monsanto’s patented seed technology on their farms.

At that time, we heard from farmers that we needed to make sure that everyone was following the rules. So, Monsanto found a way for farmers to let us know if they had concerns about patent infringement occurring in their community.

From time to time, Monsanto receives phone calls to our Canadian CustomCare® call centre about possible situations of unlicensed use of Monsanto’s technology  occurring in a farmer’s  community. The number of Field Checks we conduct as a result of these calls is very small when compared to the number of random checks that take place during each growing season.

Dan Wright, Monsanto’s Intellectual Property Protection Lead, is the person within Monsanto who manages the annual Field Check Program in Canada. Sometimes he receives calls from growers who are concerned about illegal activity in their community.

“The people who are calling to provide information about the unlicensed use of seed are not comfortable with the idea of calling to provide information about their neighbors. However, they have decided to phone Monsanto out of frustration with a community member who is not only bragging about infringing Monsanto’s patent but also telling others they are stupid for not doing it themselves. No one likes to feel put down for choosing to honour the agreement they’ve signed.”

Monsanto takes care to follow up on the information it receives about patent infringement in Canada to ensure we are satisfying the concerns of our good paying customers. However, we also take care to ensure that anyone who is visited as a result of a tip is treated fairly and without bias.

In a few situations, we recognize that some people have abused this process as a way of seeking revenge on a neighbor for issues that have nothing to do with Monsanto. We do our best to ensure we’re not being used to settle other scores in the community and that this procedure is directed to the most legitimate concerns. Before a Field Check representative visits a farmer who someone thinks may be involved in unlicensed planting, the data that is available from Monsanto’s sales teams and any past Field Checks is reviewed.

Monsanto does provide growers with an anonymous way to convey information – but we don’t go out and actively solicit tips. Furthermore, we do not reward anybody who calls with a tip and we don’t report back the results of any Field Check to callers.