A large number of organic farmers and support organizations, led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGTA) had sought an injunction to prevent Monsanto from continuing their aggressive history of suing farmers for violating the patents they hold on genetically modified (GMO) seeds. The agribusiness giant’s track record includes:
- Winning 144 lawsuits against farmers (whose seeds may have acquired Monsanto’s patented genes when pollen from other farms drifted into their fields).
- More than 700 other farmers who settled out of court rather than fight the corporate behemoth that controls more than 90% of seed sales in corn, soybeans, sugar beets and many other crops.
Despite that, U.S. Federal Dist. Judge Naomi Buchwald completely sided with Monsanto, basically saying the companypromised not to do that stuff anymore and that was good enough for her (even though Monsanto has declined to enshrine that policy in any sort of legally binding covenant).
(Whats so bad about GMOs? See: The trouble with Monsanto and GMO – Dr David Suzuki spells it out)
The judge further noted that compared to the more than 2 million farms in the US, the fact that Monsanto sues about 13 farmers a year “is hardly significant”. Apparently she is unfamiliar with the concept of a “chilling effect”.
Jim Gerritsen, an organic farmer from Maine and President of the OSGTA, added:
We reject as naïve and indefensible the judge’s assertion that Monsanto’s vague public relations ‘commitment [not to sue farmers for 'trace amounts' of their seeds are genetically engineered traits], should be ‘a source of comfort’ to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto.
The lead attorney for the farmers, Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation at Cardozo Law School, says the judge was in error.
Her failure to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and her characterization of binding Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers’ standing as ‘wholly inapposite’ constitute legal error. In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law.
While disappointing, it’s not too surprising that this court, too, would side with Monsanto. Gerritson says the farmers will appeal, so the fight is really only just getting started.
Monsanto has been having a rough year – their resistant corn is failing, India has sued them for biopiracy, they were convicted last month in France of causing pesticide poisoning, and they may be completely banned from the European Union…