Organic Farmers Seek Protection From Monsanto

If you saw last year’s documentary hit, Food Inc., you might have been left with a bad taste in your mouth for the agricultural giant, Monsanto. Monsanto is the leading producer of genetically modified seed made to withstand herbicide treatments, droughts, and crop damage, including 95% of all soybeans and 80% of all corn grown in the U.S.  The company is notorious for suing farmers they suspect of patent infringement, including the inadvertent occurrence of pollen from nearby farmers’ genetically modified crops blowing over the fence onto their field.  Monsanto has received over $15 million from these patent-violation cases.  Now this week, the organic farmers are fighting back.

The Public Patent Foundation (PUBAT) has filed suit against Monsanto Company. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 12 seed businesses, 26 farms and farmers, and 22 agricultural associations, challenges the company’s patents on genetically modified seed.  The group is seeking a ruling that would prohibit Monsanto from suing the farmers or dealers if their organic seed becomes contaminated with Monsanto’s patented biotech seed germplasm. They’re calling it a preemptive strike to protect the organic plaintiffs from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.  According to a statement released by PUBAT Executive Director Dan Ravicher, the case asks if Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed or pollen should land on their property.  The lawsuit states that genetically modified seed, once released into the environment, can contaminate and destroy organic seed for the same crop.  It cites canola as an example, saying soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually impossible to grow as a result of contamination.  Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake, the statement reads.  The lawsuit couldn’t come at a better time for the organic farming industry; the U.S. government has approved Genetically Modified (GM) alfalfa, a crop whose pollen can travel via wind up to five miles. GM sugar beets, which can easily cross-contaminate with non-GM sugar beets, were also recently approved.

Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, The Cornucopia Institute and Family Farm Defenders Inc. are among the plaintiffs represented by the Public Patent Foundation in the suit.  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…..

DK

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