Published on: February 29, 2012
Yesterday, MNB took note of a Reuters
report that “a federal judge has ruled in favor of global seed giant Monsanto Co, dismissing a lawsuit brought by a consortium of U.S. organic farmers and seed dealers who said their industry is at risk from Monsanto's growing market strength.”
As I understood the story, the judge in the case essentially said that the lawsuit was designed to stop a company from filing a lawsuit that it never had filed, and he said that it was a “transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists.”
And I commented:That said, if Monsanto’s crops with GM seeds contaminate some other farmer’s crops, and Monsanto does try to put those farmers out of business for so-called patent infringement, I hope some judge will smack them upside the head. Because that would be the ultimate in corporate gall.
I got a lot of email about this comment ... and it suggests that the judge may have been full of it when he said there was no existing controversy.
One MNB user wrote:Your comment today was not based in fact. Monsanto has sued thirteen organic farmers for patent infringement after their crops were contaminated with Monsanto patented genes. So far.
From another MNB user:Just some background.
If Monsanto seed blows into a non Monsanto seed farm, Monsanto sues that farmer for using unauthorized seed.
Monsanto seed is modified to resist a pesticide, so it has advantages but they own the seed, meaning a farming at the end of the season has to destroy his seed and buy fresh every year.
If seed blows into a non Monsanto field is can cross germinate and give that resistance to some of the non Monsanto buying farmers.
Currently, Monsanto has sued and won all of these cases. It pits a small farmer against a corporation, and they get buried with legal fees and go under, every time.
In summary, if the wind blows the wrong way, you lose your farm. I understand the need to protect intellectual property, but it is slowing reducing the consumers ability to choose from Organic, to Local, to sprayed food.
Another MNB user wrote:If you haven’t watched Food Inc. or The Future of Food documentaries, please do. Both are available on Netflix streaming. Monsanto has already sued over a 1,000 small farmers and their stories are told.
And still another MNB user chimed in:Monsanto sues farmers for patent infringement every day after THEIR seeds have contaminated someone else’s crops: wind drift, birds drop them, leftover seeds in a mill, etc.
Please watch The Future of Food – concise and very easy to understand explanation of how it’s all done, by whom, and to whom.
And another MNB user offered:I’m sure you’ve seen the film Food Inc. and if you haven’t, well I’d be shocked. The story of a guy who had a business to help small family farmers save seed from their own crops was appalling. He was personally harassed, and once Monsanto got hold of his client list through the exploration process of a lawsuit they took their game up a notch and started hassling his clients to the point that if they were to use his services it would be met with instant lawsuits. All a company the size of Monsanto has to do is threaten to sue and small farmers can’t afford to fight back and collapse under their pressure. The use of his client list was particularly despicable.
I watched the film is disgust for Monsanto’s actions. Cross-pollination from neighboring farms is a real threat to traditionalist farmers wishing to avoid patent infringement and save seed from non-Monsanto varieties. This ruling was clearly a win for Monsanto and not for farming, the organic movement, or food prices.
With Monsanto it looks to be their way or the courtroom.
I’ve seen Food Inc.
, but I honestly don’t remember if I’ve seen The Future of Food
. But I’ll make sure I move it to the top of my queue.
Now that you point this out - and I got a lot more email along these lines - I remember the points made by Food Inc.
, and I should have recalled them when writing my commentary. But what I can’t quite figure out is how - considering there have been so many lawsuits - the lawyers for Monsanto were able to make their case. Unless the judge in the case was predisposed to rule in their favor. Or the lawyers on the side of the organic farmers simply did not make theirs.
It doesn’t surprise me that Monsanto is seen in certain quarters as a bully.
On the subject of PayPal’s expanding presence in the brick-and-mortar retail business, one MNB user wrote:It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Similar to so many of your stories, and reminiscent of the Auto industry of the late 20th century, the banks are beholden to the tricks of the trade which allowed them a business model with excessive charges they could get away with. Government regulation has done little to mediate the problem. Now it seems the marketplace will. PayPal is probably just the first of several companies which, not dependent on obscene rip-offs for their profit, will give the traditional credit card companies a run for their money.
This could be a classic case of a democratic, capitalist marketplace accomplishing something government could or would not do.
From another MNB user:I have been using PayPal to collect rent on our Mexican resort properties for years now and find it works great in principal but am frustrated every time I go to look up a record or process a new transaction at the slowness and cumbersome response of its system. Nothing works like a spread sheet, that you can sort different ways quickly!
I hope it does not continue to get slower! When I called them on it, their excuse was they are growing so fast they cannot keep up. That's one sure way to slow down - looking for a competitor!
MNB user Jarrett Paschel wrote:I read with fascination your summary of reports that Home Depot is expanding their test of accepting PayPal payments to the rest of its fleet of stores. Given that the funds are still coming directly from user’s bank accounts in the vast majority of purchases, it surprises me to learn that the value proposition for the consumer is the fact that rather than swiping a debit card, one “need only” enter their phone number and PIN number on their PayPal account. Readers on TechCrunch trumpet the “convenience” of not having to carry a wallet and the “safety” of not risking the loss of a debit card.
Given the need to carry a drivers license, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which I would never carry a wallet again, so it seems like an uphill battle to convince consumers that PayPal is somehow more convenient than a plain old debit card. I agree with you that this will be one of the first in a series of competitors to traditional banks, and it certainly signifies the growing trend toward the disintegration of the physical bank.
But at the moment, the value proposition for the consumer seems more of a gimmick than a true revolution of convenience. That said, it’s a clear win for Home Depot because they’re getting a better cut from PayPal than MC/Visa, which is well deserved.
Let the games begin…
On another subject that we’ve been discussing here on MNB, a reader sent the following email:I read the commentary on why people do not want to choose a career in grocery retailing and I had to share my thoughts.
I'm 25 and I've been working in a grocery store for over eight years. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Management. I've worked for two very good companies -- Costco and HEB. Both have compensated me well, both have provided great insurance and 401k programs, and both have excellent opportunities for growth.
With that being said, I'm someone who values work/life balance highly. Now, that's not to say that I'm not willing to work extensive hours when necessary, because I absolutely will. But, when I am SCHEDULED - when 11 hour shifts very easily turn into 12 and 13 hours shifts it gets really old, really fast. And, in my opinion, the only reason I am scheduled to work these kind of hours is because that's the way it has always! been done. With technology today -- internet, mobile email, etc. -- I believe there is no reason why we can't be effective retail operators working at the store from ~8:00-5:00. We literally have all of the data we would ever need to make sound business decisions accessible to us with the click of a mouse.
Then, once or twice a week I'll have to work until midnight. I won't even bother talking about the holiday experience. Long hours, nights and weekends, holidays. It's easy to see why the grocery business isn't very appealing. My younger brother (civil engineer) and best friend (credit analyst) both work M-F 8-5 and both make slightly more money than me. Apples to oranges, I know, but it shows why people in high school aren't saying to themselves, "I want to run a grocery store all of my life!" I think a lot of the unwritten rules in grocery retail will change dramatically over the course of the next 10-15 years when all of the Baby Boomers retire and my generation begins to take over.
If you are not truly passionate about this business it will wear on you very quickly. Fortunately I'm in a position where I don't have to accept this as "my life". I can choose to do something else. I can't imagine trying to raise a family on the schedule that I have now. Maybe 8 hours at the store and a few more each night from home, but not 11-12 hours a day at the store.
I’m sympathetic, but for the moment I’d like to take what may be a politically incorrect position.
I think you have to give up the notion that in any business where you want to have an impact and reap the rewards, you are going to be able to work so-called normal hours. I’ve been telling young people for years that we do not live in a 40-hour work week world ... that if you are going to have a differential advantage in a highly competitive environment, you have to be willing to do more, to do extra, to spend the extra time and go the extra mile.
I’ve been working for a long time - full-time, for almost 40 years. And I would be hard-pressed to remember a job where I worked a 9-5 day on a regular basis. Whether as a daily newspaper reporter working Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve because I was the low man on the totem pole, or a writer/producer on a business video series where I was often on the road for weeks at a time, or in my current gig, I’ve always put in the time necessary to get the job done right.
Now, in part this is because I’ve always loved my work. (Even if I did not always love the job, the company, or the people I’ve worked for.) In most cases, it was because I felt invested in the business - emotionally, if not financially. (That probably has as much to do with my emotional makeup as anything. I’m not sure I ever was an easy person to manage, but I was always was low-maintenance when it came to motivation and commitment.)
Now, you’ve worked for some great companies, and other people I know who have worked in both places have found happy and satisfying careers there. So maybe retail is not for you.
I think it is critical for retailers to understand the mindset of people like this, and to figure out how to deal with it. There’s not much that can be done about the long hours, I suspect, but I do think that it is important to figure out how to help them feel invested in the business, dedicated to the company’s success, able to contribute creatively and constructively and see those contributions realized in the marketplace.
As for young people...here’s what I suggest. Find something you love doing, and make it the centerpiece of your work life. You’re going to spend way too much time working to not find it personally rewarding and even joyous.
And, by the way, if you are lucky and love your job, someday you may get an email like this one:Let me preface this by saying that “I am one of the 800,” which is becoming a common phrase at Supervalu since the downsizing was announced three weeks ago. I have only been in the supply chain industry a short while and as part of my becoming more aware of the business I started watching your blog. Not only did I learn quite a bit about the industry, I have enjoyed your, Michael’s, and Kate’s comments and insights on what is happening in the world of groceries and retailing in general. In a few weeks I begin a new chapter in a different industry. I may just have to continue following your blog to keep current on good food, good wine, good movies, and a few good laughs!
Thanks for the lessons, on many things and in many forms!
And thank you...for making my day. Good luck to you.