After getting involved in the Soya controversies, Monsanto found itself in the midst of another controversy with its “Pig Patent”. In 2005, Monsanto had filed two patents for processes which controlled the breeding and the herds of pigs.
This resulted in Monsanto being under scrutiny for ownership rights over pigs and their offspring. Many commentators felt that Monsanto was planning to create improved designer animals for human consumption using special breeding techniques. Monsanto was able to control breeds with specific characteristics as per the patent, and disallowing other breeders and farmers from doing so.
The patent, being broad, remained unclear about the ownership of the proceeds from the sale of the pigs by farmers. It did not mention about the royalties involved when a food producer produces sausages (as an example) using those pigs which are bred using Monsanto’s process. This was a source of royalty for Monsanto. Monsanto wanted to cash in on the growing consumer demand for meat products globally and many activists question the ethics of Monsanto’s actions.
The filing of the patents also raises questions about the livelihood of all the pig breeders – those who use Monsanto process on the ownership and those who use traditional methods of pig rearing accused of patent infringement. As like the earlier seed controversy and the Canadian incident, the farmers are afraid of losing their livelihood due to Monsanto’s breeding technique.
They fear that Monsanto would also file lawsuits against them like they did to the soya and corn farmers. This stems from the fact that the patent filed by Monsanto is quite broad and the interpretation would lead to them owning not just the breeding process, but also the pigs which are bred from this method.
However, there is no evidence of any addition in the nutritional value and fat content lowering which has been claimed by Monsanto. On its part, Monsanto claims that it is not trying to patent pigs; it wants the ability to track which animals come from its system. Advocates of genetically modified foods stress that this scientific process is one of the ways of increasing food production in a world where the demand for food is ever increasing.
It brings about an increase in supply and is beneficial to the community. Hundreds of patents on animals have been granted over the years, including salmon, shrimps and mice. But most are Genetically Modified creatures used in laboratory research, not common farm animals which are a source of income for people.