Organic Farm Group Sues Monsanto, Seeking Protection From GMO Contamination

cornfieldActing on behalf of more than 50 organic farmers and seed dealers, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) has brought suit against biotech agricultur giant Monsanto.

It’s a preemptive suit, designed to ensure that Monsanto can’t sue the farmers and seed dealers once the inevitable happens and genetically modified (GMO) pollen contaminates their crops.

The USDA has recently approved GMO sugar beets and alfalfa; upwards of 90 percent of the US corn and soybean crop were already GMO.

The problem

When it announced that it was allowing nearly unrestricted planting of Montanto’s GMO alfalfa back in January, the USDA said that while a little contamination was likely to happen, it was not a big deal.

Pollen from GMO crops could easily blow into fields of standard or organic crops, but the USDA said it was nothing to worry about.

There’s just one problem with that theory. GMO pollen isn’t just a minor contaminant. GMO pollen is the patented intellectual property of the Monsanto Corporation.

And Monsanto has been very, very aggressive over the past decade about protecting its intellectual property, sending private investigators out to sample farmers fields, and suing whenever they have found their patented genes being “pirated” by farmers who weren’t licensed to grow them.

Monsanto maintained it didn’t matter if the genes blew into the farmers fields; it didn’t matter if the farmer didn’t WANT Monsanto’s damned GMO genes. Monsanto would sue for patent infringement, and won damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Striking first

With that kind of track record, PUBPAT is attempting to restructure the playing field. Rather than waiting for Monsanto to sue farmers (even when the farmers win, the court costs are devastating), they’re taking the fight to the source.

“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, executive director of The Public Patent Foundation, in a statement.

“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.”

Read more: Farmers, seed sellers sue Monsanto | St. Louis Business Journal

According to Reuters,

Monsanto called the lawsuit misleading and a “publicity stunt” and said it has never sued and has committed to never suing farmers over the inadvertent presence of biotechnology traits in their fields.

That is simply not true; there  have been hundreds of cases (we’ll document this in a follow-up article that’s currently being prepared).

It’s also calling into question the legitimacy of Monsanto’s patents on genes.

Read a copy of the suit here.

-> Next Page: Full list of plaintiffs and some of their comments

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