Mitchell Scruggs hardly fits the profile of an activist.
A 53-year-old Mississippian, Scruggs runs a cotton gin and owns the biggest farm in three counties surrounding Tupelo. Until a few years ago, he had never protested over civil rights, the environment or anything else.
That changed when he found that Monsanto forbids those using its product from the age-old practice of saving seeds from one crop to plant the next. The licensing agreement says they must buy new seed each year.
Now Scruggs is fighting in the courts, by word of mouth and just about any way he can. He helped form Save Our Seed, a farmers' rights group that advocates seed recovery as it has been done for generations.
"I'm opposed to what Monsanto's about," Scruggs said in an interview last week. "They're raping farm communities and breaking farmers, because farmers do not have any other place to go to get this planting seed."
The manufacturer says it is entitled to protect the value of its "intellectual property" and to recover research costs. It says those who violate the licenses commit "seed piracy."
Scruggs, whose family has farmed in Mississippi for more than a century, is among 73 farmers sued by Monsanto in the past five years on civil claims of patent violations. He countersued, saying that the patents are invalid and that Monsanto enforces a monopoly over the seed industry. The case is pending in U.S. District Court in Tupelo.
Another illustration of the stupidity of patenting lifeforms, turning family farms into indentured corporate servitude. How does saving something you own constitute "piracy"?