modify through plant breeding and replant. Through this process, farmers developed adiverse array of plants that could thrive in various geographies, soils, climates andecosystems. But today this history of seeds is seemingly forgotten in light of a patentsystem that, since the mid-1980s, has allowed corporations to own products of life.One of Monsanto's arguments is that when farmers save seed from a crop grown from patented seed and then use that seed for another crop, they are illegally replicating, or "making," Monsanto's proprietary seeds instead of legally "using" the seeds by planting them only one time and purchasing more seeds for each subsequent planting.This logic is troubling to many who point out that it is the nature of seeds and allliving things, whether patented or not, to replicate. Monsanto's claim that it has rightsover a self-replicating natural product should raise concern. Seeds, unlike computer chips, for example, are essential to life. If people are denied a computer chip, theydon't go hungry. If people are denied seeds, the potential consequences are much morethreatening.Although Monsanto and other agrochemical companies assert that they need thecurrent patent system to invent better seeds, the counterargument is that splicing analready existing gene or other DNA into a plant and thereby transferring a new trait tothat plant is not a novel invention. A soybean, for example, has more than 46,000genes. Properties of these genes are the product of centuries of plant breeding andshould not, many argue, become the product of a corporation. Instead, these genesshould remain in the public domain.The seed industry also claims that if patents are made narrower in scope, innovation,such as devising environmentally sustainable ways to farm, would be stifled.However, evidence casts doubt on the prevalent assumption that positiveenvironmental impacts have resulted from their seed technologies.Take the example of the genetically engineered soybean in question. Its innovativetrait is that it is resistant to the herbicide Roundup, whose primary ingredient isglyphosate. However, weeds are developing a rapid resistance to glyphosate.In January, Farm Industry News reported that the area of U.S. cropland infested withglyphosate-resistant weeds expanded to 61.2 million acres in 2012. These "super weeds" are gaining momentum, increasing 25% in 2011 and 51% in 2012.In response, farmers resort to more soil-eroding tillage operations to combat theweeds, and they turn to more toxic chemicals. Based on data from the USDA, as muchas 26% more pesticides per acre were used on genetically engineered crops than onconventional crops.