West Virginia isn't known for soybean farming. Until now, at least.
Attorney General Darrell McGraw has filed suit against the Monsanto Company supposedly on our behalf to try to determine if its new Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans increase crop yields as advertised.
Monsanto's original Roundup Ready seeds are still available, but the company's patent on those seeds expires in 2014, which means that other companies then will be able to sell them and prices likely will drop.
Soybean farmers are under no compulsion to switch to the new seeds. In fact, only seven West Virginia farmers planted them this year.
Nevertheless, McGraw has asked the court to enjoin Monsanto from selling any of its products in West Virginia until the company complies with his subpoena demanding information relating to yield claims.
"I want to ensure there is a fair marketplace for West Virginia farmers," McGraw insisted. "They need to know if it is worth extra money to buy new products that may not live up to the hype."
That's the rub. Farmers here or elsewhere didn't ask McGraw for his help. The rest of us didn't ask for the possible consequences of his meddling, either.
Monsanto once was one of West Virginia's largest employers, operating a plant in Nitro from 1929-1995. Today, it is one of the world's agribusiness leaders, with 22,000 employees and $11 billion in annual revenue. Companies like Monsanto always are looking for places to expand. Check one place off the list.
So will those seven farmers benefit from McGraw's intervention, having already decided for themselves that the new seeds were worth the extra money? Or is this suit just another of McGraw's effort to generate publicity for himself and antipathy for West Virginia from a world class company that has jobs and pays good wages?
I think we all know the answer to that.
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