Monsanto, a company that manufactures genetically engineered seeds for agriculture that has sparked the ire of Neil Young, has issued a statement to Rolling Stone responding to the singer-songwriter’s mini-documentary Seeding Fear. Young co-executive-produced the film, which examines the repercussions of a lawsuit between the corporation and farmer Michael White, whom it sued for patent infringement. The suit was settled out of court.
“Mr. White is not transparent in describing his actions or the situation,” a rep for the company tells Rolling Stone. “He actually admitted to knowingly planting, producing, saving, cleaning and selling Roundup Ready soybeans illegally. All of this information is available in court documents.
“Protecting patents and copyrights can be difficult in any business – including the entertainment industry,” the rep continues. “Mr. White’s actions are equivalent to pirating an album, producing thousands of copies and selling bootleg copies – all while knowing what you’re doing is illegal and that it will result in criminal charges if caught.”
The rep also referenced a LinkedIn blog by Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Robb Fraley, in which he responded to Young. “Here’s an invitation to establish that dialogue with Neil Young,” Fraley wrote. “I invite him to visit our company and talk with us about what we’re doing.” The rep also provided a link to another blog, hosted on the Monsanto website, titled “Correcting The Monsanto Years,” published earlier this month in response to the album Young put out this year, which attacks the company.
“Although they have tended to get a lot of attention, lawsuits between us and farmers who plant seeds without paying for them are actually very rare,” the company’s statement for Rolling Stone concludes. “Every year, hundreds of thousands of farmers plant our seeds. Since 1997, when we started trying to protect the patents on our seeds, we have gone to trial with a fraction of one percent of those customers. In addition, all of the proceeds we receive from any settlement – including Mr. White’s settlement – are donated to youth leadership initiatives and to support the local communities in which farmers live and work.”
Young declined to comment to Rolling Stone on Monsanto’s statement.
Young released the 10-minute film Seeding Fear on Thursday via his Shakey Pictures company. “The film I would like you to see tells the story of a farming family in America, but the same thing is happening around the world,” Young wrote in an introductory statement. “It is a story that takes 10 minutes of your time to see. It is a simple human one, telling the heartbreaking story of one man who fought the corporate behemoth Monsanto, and it illustrates why I was moved to write The Monsanto Years.”