Organic Farmers and Seed Sellers Sue Monsanto to Protect Themselves from Patents on Genetically Modified Seed - Food Democracy Now! Joins Lawsuit


 Preemptive Action Seeks Ruling That Would Prohibit Monsanto From Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers If Contaminated By Roundup Ready Seed

NEW YORK – March 29, 2011 – On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed
businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent
Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today (http://www.pubpat.org/assets/files/seed/OSGATA-v-Monsanto-Complaint.pdf) against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed.  The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should they ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past.

The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto,
was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge
Naomi Buchwald.  Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of
family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the
organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by
genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts
to avoid it.  The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members,
including thousands of certified organic family farmers.

“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers
for patent infringement if Monsanto's transgenic seed should land on
their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director and
Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. “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.”

Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed
contaminates and destroys organic seed for the same crop.  For example,
soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola,
organic canola became virtually extinct as a result of contamination.
Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa now face the
same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each
of those crops, too.  Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed
for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed
all agriculture, at stake.

In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic
farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed,
they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement.  One
reason justifying this result is that Monsanto's patents on genetically
modified seed are invalid because they don't meet the “usefulness”
requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT's Ravicher, plaintiffs'
lead attorney in the case.  Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening
filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic
and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified
seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false.

“Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history
tells us that's not possible, and it's actually in Monsanto's financial
interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total
monopoly over our food supply,” said Ravicher.  “Monsanto is the same
chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB's and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not.  Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not.”

The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed
Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association
International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia
Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine
Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming
Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming
Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm
Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains
Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network; Northeast
Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family
Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems; Global Organic
Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.;
Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; FEDCO Seeds Inc.; Adaptive Seeds, LLC; Sow True Seed; Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; Mumm's Sprouting Seeds; Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC; Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC; Seedkeepers, LLC; Siskiyou Seeds; Countryside Organics; Cuatro Puertas; Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd.; Alba Ranch; Wild Plum Farm; Gratitude Gardens; Richard Everett Farm, LLC; Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc; Genesis Farm; Chispas Farms LLC; Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc.; Midheaven Farms; Koskan Farms; California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm; Taylor Farms, Inc.; Jardin del Alma; Ron Gargasz Organic Farms; Abundant Acres; T & D Willey Farms; Quinella Ranch; Nature's Way Farm Ltd.; Levke and Peter Eggers Farm; Frey Vineyards, Ltd.; Bryce Stephens; Chuck Noble; LaRhea Pepper; Paul Romero; and, Donald Wright Patterson, Jr.

Many of the plaintiffs made statements upon filing of the suit today.

Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is
President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
based in Montrose, Colorado, said, "Today is Independence Day for
America.  Today we are seeking protection from the Court and putting
Monsanto on notice.  Monsanto's threats and abuse of family farmers
stops here.  Monsanto's genetic contamination of organic seed and
organic crops ends now.  Americans have the right to choice in the
marketplace - to decide what kind of food they will feed their families
- and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to
choose.  Organic farmers have the right to raise our organic crops for
our families and our customers on our farms without the threat of invasion by Monsanto's genetic contamination and without harassment by a reckless polluter. Beginning today, America asserts her right to justice and pure food."

Dr. Carol Goland, Ph.D., Executive Director of plaintiff Ohio Ecological
Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) said, “Consumers indicate,
overwhelmingly, that they prefer foods made without genetically modified
organisms.  Organic farms, by regulation, may not use GMOs, while other
farmers forego using them for other reasons.  Yet the truth is that we
are rapidly approaching the tipping point when we will be unable to
avoid GMOs in our fields and on our plates.  That is the inevitable
consequence of releasing genetically engineered materials into the
environment.  To add injury to injury, Monsanto has a history of suing
farmers whose fields have been contaminated by Monsanto's GMOs.  On
behalf of farmers who must live under this cloud of uncertainty and
risk, we are compelled to ask the Court to put an end to this
unconscionable business practice.”

Rose Marie Burroughs of plaintiff 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.”

Ed Maltby, Executive Director of plaintiff Northeast Organic Dairy
Producers Alliance (NODPA) said, “It's outrageous that we find ourselves
in a situation where the financial burden of GE contamination will fall
on family farmers who have not asked for or contributed to the growth of
GE crops.  Family farmers will face contamination of their crops by GE
seed which will threaten their ability to sell crops as organically
certified or into the rapidly growing 'Buy Local' market where consumers
have overwhelmingly declared they do not want any GE crops, and then
family farmers may be faced by a lawsuit by Monsanto for patent
infringement.  We take this action to protect family farms who once
again have to bear the consequences of irresponsible actions by Monsanto.”

David L. Rogers, Policy Advisor for plaintiff NOFA Vermont said,
“Vermont’s farmers have worked hard to meet consumers’ growing demand
for certified organic and non-GE food.  It is of great concern to them
that Monsanto’s continuing and irresponsible marketing of GE crops that
contaminate non-GE plantings will increasingly place their local and
regional markets at risk and threaten their livelihoods.”

Dewane Morgan of plaintiff Midheaven Farms in Park Rapids, Minnesota,
said, "For organic certification, farmers are required to have a buffer
zone around their perimeter fields. Crops harvested from this buffer
zone are not eligible for certification due to potential drift from
herbicide and fungicide drift. Buffer zones are useless against pollen
drift.  Organic, biodynamic, and conventional farmers who grow
identity-preserved soybeans, wheat and open-pollinated corn often save
seed for replanting the next year. It is illogical that these farmers
are liable for cross-pollination contamination."

Jill Davies, Director of plaintiff Sustainable Living Systems in Victor,
Montana, said, “The building blocks of life are sacred and should be in
the public domain.  If scientists want to study and manipulate them for
some supposed common good, fine.  Then we must remove the profit motive.
 The private profit motive corrupts pure science and increasingly
precludes democratic participation.”

David Murphy, founder and Executive Director of plaintiff Food Democracy
Now! said, “None of Monsanto’s original promises regarding genetically
modified seeds have come true after 15 years of wide adoption by
commodity farmers. Rather than increased yields or less chemical usage,
farmers are facing more crop diseases, an onslaught of
herbicide-resistant superweeds, and increased costs from additional
herbicide application. Even more appalling is the fact that Monsanto’s
patented genes can blow onto another farmer’s fields and that farmer not
only loses significant revenue in the market but is frequently exposed
to legal action against them by Monsanto’s team of belligerent lawyers.
Crop biotechnology has been a miserable failure economically and
biologically and now threatens to undermine the basic freedoms that
farmers and consumers have enjoyed in our constitutional democracy.”

Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for plaintiff The Cornucopia
Institute said, “Family-scale farmers desperately need the judiciary
branch of our government to balance the power Monsanto is able to wield
in the marketplace and in the courts.  Monsanto, and the biotechnology
industry, have made great investments in our executive and legislative
branches through campaign contributions and powerful lobbyists in
Washington.  We need to 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.”

ABOUT PUBPAT

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) is a not-for-profit legal services
organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
PUBPAT protects freedom in the patent system by representing the public
interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy.  More
information about PUBPAT is available from www.pubpat.org.

CONTACT

Daniel B. Ravicher
Executive Director
PUBLIC PATENT FOUNDATION
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
+1-212-545-5337
press@pubpat.org

 

David Murphy

Founder / Executive Director

Food Democracy Now!

917 968-7369

press@fooddemocracynow.org



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