Mapping Genetically Engineered Seed Litigation in the United States
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The phenomenon of U.S. farmers being sued by Monsanto for patent violations involving genetically engineered (GE) seed contamination had, until now, not been presented spatially. This research sought to map the locations of farmers who have been sued either for saving and replanting genetically engineered seed, planting genetically engineered seed without having bought or signed technology agreements for it, or unknowingly or unwillingly had genetically engineered seeds grow on their land. Since 1996 when genetically engineered seeds entered the market, Monsanto, the company responsible for the technology behind GE seeds, as well as other biotech corporations, have required that any customers purchasing their gene-altered seeds sign ‘technology use agreements’. These agreements give the companies power over farmers and subject them to serious potential litigations. From the late nineties, when GE seeds entered the market, until 2005, for which the most recent data is available, over 120 farmers have been sued in the United States due to patent infringement violations involving GE seeds. This research utilized ArcGIS to map the distribution of genetically engineered seed litigation in the United States, as well as to show the distributions of the three main GE crops: corn, cotton and soy. The locations of these crops are illustrated with the most recent United States Department of Agriculture crop layers as well as by graduated colors and symbols in relation to their contribution to the national total in addition to the state percentage of those crops that are GE.