Over the last few days I’ve seen people tweeting about Monsanto’s Technology / Stewardship Agreement (MTSA). Tweets send you to a video of two people discussing the agreement and now there is a commentary on Huffington Post. There seems to be a lot of shock that a liability statement is included in the document, and the overreactions about the extent of the liability borne by Monsanto and the farmers is amazing to me. But then again, I first heard about the agreements in 1995 when they were introduced and I read them shortly after. I’ve had dozens of discussions with farmers about them.
The MTSA agreement is one that farmers know well. They’ve had business advisors or lawyers review these just as they have other legal documents. As a matter of fact, when the “news” of a liability statement was broken on a farmer bulletin board service, it met quickly with one farmer dismissing it and saying it was silly.
Another farmer provided his perspective on the video. “I don’t even believe I’m giving this my time? Seriously? I assume you read what you signed and already knew this, or at least had your lawyer read it… The way I read it, it says if you buy or rent a farm that has their traited crops planted (i.e., current crop year in the middle of the season) on it you have to sign the agreement to spray them and harvest them.”
With the traffic picking up from the websites, I’d like to make a few things clear:
• The MTSA provides a farmer a limited license to use Monsanto’s technology in seed that he or she may choose to purchase. The document provides the license to use the technology and consequently covers several topics commonly found in similar agreements.
• Subjects covered in the agreement include information on the products covered by the agreement, required adherence to stewardship regulations, and information on the patents involved.
• The agreement contains liability provisions commonly found in technology agreements as well as other types of contracts. (Thanks to the farmer above, I’m looking more closely at mortgage papers on my desk. The liability clauses are there and I can only imagine what I’ll have to sign when I buy my next house.)
• The introduction of biotech in the mid-1990s led to new types of agreements now commonplace and well understood by farmers. Claims that farmers don’t understand the agreements or that they require a buyer of farm land to purchase seed with Monsanto technology in perpetuity are baseless.
• We encourage all farmers to read and understand the MTSA. Farmers choose to sign it have the right to receive the value Monsanto’s technologies offer them.
Liability clauses are standard in all walks of life now. There’s always one I have to agree to when I have to upgrade iTunes, my niece’s school had one about peanuts, and, heck, even a cup of coffee comes with a warning and limit of liability now. Whether the discussion going on now is silly or unconscionable, I’ll leave to the farmers to decide.