A not-for-profit legal services organization, The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), has filed suit against Monsanto challenging the company’s patents on genetically modified seed.
Led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, PUBPAT represents scores of family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations with over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.
The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed earlier this year in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald.
Because Monsanto has sued US and Canadian farmers in the past when their patented genetic material has inadvertently contaminated their crops, the organic plaintiffs decided to sue Monsanto preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.
“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed or pollen should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”
Monsanto has unprecedented control of the corn and soybean market. Their Roundup Ready corn is now planted on nearly 80 percent of the farmland acreage in the U.S., and Monsanto’s soybeans, with their Roundup Ready gene, is in 93 percent of U.S. soybean seeds.
Once Monsanto unleashes these GM seeds into the environment they contaminate organic seeds for the same crop; that explains why organic canola has became virtually impossible to grow. Monsanto has now released GM seeds for corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa, and is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops.
“Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers stops here. Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now,” stated Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families.”
As Ravicher, who is also a Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, points out, it’s in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply.
Rose Marie Burroughs of California Cloverleaf Farms said, “The devastation caused by GMO contamination is an ecological catastrophe to our world equal to the fall out of nuclear radiation.
“Nature, farming and health are all being affected by GMO contamination. We must protect our world by protecting our most precious, sacred resource of seed sovereignty. People must have the right to the resources of the earth for our sustenance. We must have the freedom to farm that causes no harm to the environment or to other people. We must protect the environment, farmers’ livelihood, public health and people’s right to non GMO food contamination.”
Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for plaintiff The Cornucopia Institute sums this entire issue up best:
“We need the court system to offset this power and protect individual farmers from corporate tyranny. Farmers have saved seeds since the beginning of agriculture by our species.
“It is outrageous that one corporate entity, through the trespass of what they refer to as their ‘technology,’ can intimidate and run roughshod over family farmers in this country. It should be the responsibility of Monsanto, and farmers licensing their technology, to ensure that genetically engineered DNA does not trespass onto neighboring farmland.
“It is outrageous, that through no fault of their own, farmers are being intimidated into not saving seed for fear that they will be doggedly pursued through the court system and potentially bankrupted.”