A judge in New York sided with Monsanto and against organic farmers in the first case of its kind seeking to protect famers from being accused of patent infringement upon unintentional contamination by Monsanto’s GMO seed.
Organic farmers sought a judgment against Monsanto to protect themselves from being sued for patent infringement when their crops are unintentionally contaminated with the company’s genetically modified (GMO) seed, was dismissed in federal district court in New York by Judge Naomi Buchwald called the plaintiffs’ concern an “intangible worry, unanchored in time.”
In fact, Monsanto has already filed “over a hundred lawsuits involving hundreds of farmers for illegally using GMO patented seeds, and there have been judgments as high as a million dollars, with the average judgment being about $170,000,” according to Paige Tomaselli, Staff Attorney for the Center for Food Safety (CFS). CFS was a plaintiff in the case and spoke on the subject of GMO contamination at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) annual conference in Madison on February 25.
That’s a pretty tangible worry for farmers that don’t intend to grow genetically engineered crops. The plaintiffs collectively represent over 300,000 farmers and eaters.
Farmers’ Lawsuit against Monsanto
The lawsuit (PDF), filed last year by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and the other family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations listed in the suit sought a declaratory judgment against Monsanto. They asked the Manhattan federal district court to declare that Monsanto can no longer sue farmers for inadvertent GMO contamination. OSGATA’s press release describes the plaintiffs as “increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it.”
Jim Gerritsen, a Maine family farmer and president of OSGATA, said, “Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace — to decide what kind of food they will feed their families — and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to choose. Organic farmers have the right to raise our organic crops for our families and our customers on our farms without the threat of invasion by Monsanto’s genetic contamination and without harassment by a reckless polluter.”
In response to the dismissal, plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel Ravicher, President and Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, told CMD, “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. Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers.” Read the rest of this entry →