A group of organic farmers and seed dealers is preemptively suing agribusiness/biotech giant Monsanto to protect themselves from legal action by the corporation in cases when Monsanto seeds contaminate their organic crops. The suit is intended to protect farmers from charges of patent infringement by Monsanto when the farmers’ crops are contaminated by Monsanto’s patented, genetically modified seed. Under current law, if Monsanto seeds are found in a farm for which they were not purchased, Monsanto is legally entitled to sue, even if the seeds drifted over accidentally or by natural cross-pollination. The suit was filed by the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) on behalf of 60 farmers, seed businesses and organic agriculture organizations, representing some 270,000 members.
Monsanto’s blog called the lawsuit a publicity stunt, and the allegations “false, misleading and deceptive.” The blog states that “It has never been, nor will it be Monsanto policy to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seed or traits are present in farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means.” Yet there are multiple cases of harassment and legal action by Monsanto against farmers over alleged unauthorized use of its seed products. Sourcewatch claims: “Monsanto has an annual budget of $10 million and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.”
PUBPAT‘s Executive Director Dan Ravicher, noted, “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.” Transgenic (aka genetically engineered) seed contaminates and destroys organic strains of the same species. Ravicher noted, “Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that’s not possible, and it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply.”
Plaintiff Rose Marie Burroughs of Cloverleaf Farms stated, “We must protect our world by protecting our most precious, sacred resource of seed sovereignty… We must protect the environment, farmers’ livelihood, public health and people’s right to non GMO food contamination.”
Photo: konradlew via istockphoto