Monsanto: 1, Organic Farmers: 0 in New York Court Ruling

Monsanto’s bullying tactics received a legal nod of approval on February 24th, when Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed a suit brought against the company by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA). The association was joined by 82 other plaintiffs. Nearly 300,000 organic farmers were represented in the action.

According to Judge Buchwald (pdf), the plaintiffs failed to prove their case. Only one farmer and one seed distributor claimed to have already purchased contaminated seed. Neither of them claimed Monsanto’s seeds were among the “offending seeds.” Monsanto had demanded royalty payments from only one of the plaintiffs. The judge did not consider the company’s history of threats and suits against conventional farmers sufficient evidence Monsanto would sue the plaintiffs.

OSGATA’s president, Jim Gerritsen, himself an organic farmer, published this response on the organization’s Web site:

Family farmers need the protection of the court. We reject as naïve and undefendable the judge’s assertion that Monsanto’s vague public relations ‘commitment’ should be ‘a source of comfort’ to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto. The truth is that American farmers and the American people do not believe Monsanto. Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice.

The dismissive tone of Judge Buchwald’s decision is curious in light of Monsanto’s history with conventional farmers. The company has made a practice of raiding fields in search of any infringements of their patents. Most farmers cave when threatened with massive fines, even if wind and pollinating bees brought the unwanted seed into their fields. So the judge’s statement that the “average of roughly thirteen lawsuits per year is hardly significant when compared to the number of farms in the United States” is more than a little disingenuous.

Monsanto’s Bullying Tactics

In 2008, Vanity Fair published an investigative report on Monsanto’s tactics. “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear” charges:

As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the “seed police” and use words such as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” to describe their tactics.

Judge Buchwald ignored some of the farmers’ concerns. She was silent on the issue of Monsanto seed’s contaminating organic fields. She also did not address their contention that Monsanto’s patents were fraudulent.

OSGATO’s lead attorney, Daniel Ravicher, is quoted on the Food Integrity Now Web site as saying: “While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing.”

Plaintiffs have the right to take their case to the Court of Appeals so Judge Buchwald’s decision will likely not be the last salvo heard in the struggle between small farmers and Monsanto. Still, the outcome is disappointing. David went up against Goliath. In this round, Goliath won.

Related Care2 Stories

Take that, Monsanto: GMOs Not Sustainable

Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto Over GM Seed

Monsanto Corn at Farm Markets

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.3 years ago


Don Cordell
Donald Cordell3 years ago

When I become your President in Nov. Monsanto is toast. It's time to Restore not Change America. I've heard there are 26 people associated with Monsanto in our government. If we do not maintain diversity in our food crops, we may lose that vegetable variety. If we continue to let Monsanto mess with our foods, we may lose our lives. I know our leaders want to reduce the population of the earth, is this part of the plan? Don Cordell

jayasri amma
jayasri amma3 years ago

Thank you for the information

Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for the information.

Susan T.
Susan T.3 years ago

Mit W - I understand what you're saying but the examples you gave involve allergies. I you have a child who is allergic to peanuts, living next to a peanut farm might not be the best choice. And if you choose to live there, you would be wise to educate yourself as to the plants cycle and when, if at all, your child would be at risk. If you are allergic to a certain type of lawn seed, it's either an unusual problem that you have or it is a variety of seed which should not be on the market. How it's dealt with would depend on answers to those questions.

THe Monsanto "drift" problem is created because Monsanto has managed to push back the amount of land that is required to be left as a "buffer" between their crops and other fields. Smaller buffer, more plants, more money. BUT - smaller buffer, more likely that there will be "drift".

"Drift" of GMO products into organic farmers crops ruins their expensive and time consuming to obtain organic certification. And it ruins MY ability to choose organic so it is a violation of MY rights as a consumer.

On top of that, Monsanto has the balls to sue any farmer whose fields their product has "drifted" onto for patent infringement, as though that farmer sought the drift.

They are one of the most evil companies in the world. If we do not fight against them they will ruin our food supply.

Susan T.
Susan T.3 years ago

I hope they appeal. Thanks to Susan for this link

You can also donate to OSGATA here

Ultimately our food supply is at risk. This is the first round in the courts.

Jan W.
Jan W.3 years ago

Monsanto is a threat not only to organic farmers, they are a threat to humanity itself.

In studies done on mice fed Monsanto soybeans, within three generations the mice were sterile. If Monsanto continues to reign, we will resolve the population problem by making ourselves extinct.

For any of you younger folks looking forward to becoming grandparents someday, you might want to stand up against Monsanto now.

ida w.
ida I.3 years ago

mosanto is like those gene companies which patent genes. in addition, it made the degree of diversity of plants smaller and smaller. threatening the ecology. because like the potato famines in ireland, our food supply can be wiped out in a season by a virus or bacteria which a homogeneous crop have no defense against. mosanto is a monopoly which plays dirty too.

Rudolf Affolter
Past Member 3 years ago

This sounds very bad news. But good to see that only 2% disagree!

Susan V.
Susan V.3 years ago

Please sign to show Obama and the USDA that you continue to stand with the farmers on this issue as they continue to fight Monsanto's tyranny.

If I could write one that would get this judge off the bench, I'd do it.

Thanks, Susan V