By Sally Pollack
Rachel Nevitt is an organic farmer in Hinesburg whose work brought her Tuesday from Full Moon Farm to new turf: the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in New York City.
Nevitt and her husband, David Zuckerman, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit that concerns patent rights and genetically modified organisms (GMO). The issue centers on the legal ramifications that might arise if patented genes are found on farms that don’t use GMOs, cross-pollination that can occur through the drift of seeds or pollen.
The Full Moon Farm farmers are the only Vermont farmers among the 83 plaintiffs, though two Vermont farm advocacy groups — Northeast Organic Farming Association-Vermont and Rural Vermont — are plaintiffs.
“Personally, I joined really because I want to make a difference on this planet, and because I really feel like GMOs are worse than DDT,” Nevitt said. “They’re the worst thing that has happened to our food supply in history, and people have to be made more aware of it. And if I could play some small part in that, I would.”
In all, more than 300,000 people are represented by the 83 plaintiffs, which includes 36 organizations, said their lawyer, Daniel Ravicher. He is executive director of the Public Patent Foundation, a nonprofit based at Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York City.
The case is called Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association v. Monsanto. The suit was filed in March by the Public Patent Foundation. It is a “pre-emptive suit” that seeks to prevent Monsanto from threatening the plaintiffs with patent infringement in the future, Ravicher said.
“The issue is whether or not Monsanto has the right to sue our clients for patent infringement if or when our clients are contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seeds,” Ravicher said.
Oral arguments concerning Monsanto’s motion to dismiss the case were held Tuesday morning in the federal courtroom of U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald. The hearing on the motion to dismiss was requested by Ravicher.
Originally published: Burlington Free Press