Case Update: 270,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto

19th  September  2011

This is an update to legal proceedings which has been released by the  Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA).

If you have not read our  initial  posting on this court case you can read all about it here

The 83 family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses,  and agricultural organizations challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed filed  papers in federal court (13th August 2011) defending their right to seek legal protection from the threat of  being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by  Monsanto’s genetically modified seed. The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) represents the  plaintiffs in the suit, titled Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA), et al. v.  Monsanto and pending in the Southern District of New York. The August 13 filings respond to a  motion filed by Monsanto in mid-July to have the case dismissed. In support of the plantiffs’  right to bring the case, 12 agricultural organizations also filed a friend-of-the-court  amici brief.

“Rather than give a straight forward answer on whether they would sue our clients for patent  infringement if they are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed, Monsanto has  instead chosen to try to deny our clients the right to receive legal protection from the courts,”  said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director.  “Filings include sworn statements by  several of the plaintiffs themselves explaining to the court how the risk of contamination by  transgenic seed is real and why they cannot trust Monsanto to not use an occurrence of  contamination as a basis to accuse them of patent infringement.”

It is now virtually impossible for a U.S. farmer to grow crops of their choosing (corn, soybeans,  canola, etc.) and remain GMO-free because of the numerous biological and human means by  which seeds can spread. “Given the difficulties in minimizing GM contamination farmers must  make numerous decisions about which steps are worthwhile for them and which steps are not. They are not able to make these decisions based on their own and their customers‘ interests, but  must instead make these decisions with the threat of litigation from a giant corporation looming  over their head,” Spiegel writes in the  amici brief. “The constant threat of a patent infringement  suit by Monsanto creates significant, unquantifiable costs for Plaintiff farmers and similarly  situated farmers.” The plaintiffs can do everything possible to maintain non-contaminated  seeds, and will very likely still become contaminated, and be placed under the threat of a  lawsuit. As Monsanto’s domination of the seed industry grows, and the winds continue to  disperse pollen from their GMO laced crops, the likelihood of contamination and lawsuits only  increases.

Monsanto has stated that they would not sue farmers who were “inadvertently” contaminated or  farmers whose crops contain “trace amounts” of GMO, however they have refused to sign a  simple covenant not to sue, that would bring an effective end to the lawsuit.

Monsanto’s track record makes it clear that Monsanto intends to continue threatening and  harassing farmers. “Monsanto has undertaken one of the most aggressive patent assertion  campaigns in history,” wrote Ravicher. Monsanto admits to filing 128 lawsuits against farmers  from 1997-2010, settling out of court with 700 others for an undisclosed amount. As Spiegel  writes, “The passage of time and natural biological processes will inevitably lead to higher  contamination levels, at which point Monsanto will have created a target-rich environment for  its patent enforcement activities.”

Plaintiffs Bryce Stephens, who farms in Kansas and serves as vice president of OSGATA,  Frederick Kirschenmann, who farms in North Dakota, C.R. Lawn, who is founder and co-owner  of Fedco Seeds in Maine, Don Patterson of Virginia and Chuck Noble, who farms in South  Dakota, each submitted declarations to the court describing their personal experiences with the  risk of contamination by genetically modified seed and why those experiences have forced them  to bring the current suit. As summarized by the accompanying brief filed by PUBPAT on the  plaintiffs’ behalf, “Monsanto’s acts of widespread patent assertion and the plaintiffs’ ever  growing risk of contamination create a real, immediate and substantial dispute between them.”

In their brief, the  amici describe some of the harmful effects of genetically modified seed and  how easily GMOs can contaminate an organic or conventional farmer’s land.  The organizations  filing the  amici brief were Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Biodynamic Farming and  Gardening Association, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Ecological Farmers of Ontario,  Fair Food Matters, International Organic Inspectors Association, Michigan Land Trustees,  Natural Environment Ecological Management, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Association,  Organic Council of Ontario, Slow Food USA, and Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers  Association.

The brief filed by the plaintiffs in opposition to Monsanto’s motion to dismiss is  available here.
The  amici brief in support of the plaintiffs is  available here.
Article Source  – osgata.org

 


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