DuPont Co, the second-largest seed country in the world, is hoping to find farmers that have purchased contracts to use their genetically modified soybean seeds but have breached the terms of agreement by illegally using the product for repeat harvests. Should farmers replant GMO seeds licensed by DuPont, they could be sued for invalidating their contracts.
“Farmers are never going to get cheap access to these genetically engineered varieties,” Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, tells Bloomberg. “The biotech industry has trumped the legitimate economic interests of the farmer again by raising the ante on intellectual property.”
DuPont competitors Monsanto have been known to relentlessly sue small-time farmers who have been caught abusing their own patented GMO products, but the latest maneuver is being considered by some a form of intimidation. DuPont has cut a deal with Saskatchewan-based Agro Protection International, a company that contracts mostly retired police officers to patrol potential violations of IP law.
“Everyone always goes to the idea that we are trying to intimidate people and nothing could be further from the truth,”Agro President Dennis Birtles tells Bloomberg. “We are trying to create deterrence.”
According to that report, Agro already has around 45 employees patrolling farms in Canada, and a DuPont senior manager has confirmed to the media that around three dozen will start searching for IP violations in the United States starting next year.
Reached for comment by Bloomberg, Randy Schlatter from DuPont’s intellectual property program office said the contract with Agro will help their customers in the end, because honoring contracts will allow the GMO giants to continue to develop new products. Currently they have more than 225 soybean seed patents.
“Our challenge is to get customers to understand the fact that strong intellectual property protection is a benefit that ends up at the customer level,” Schlatter says. “If we can’t make a profit, we can’t invest and we can’t bring out new products.”