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Farmers Sue Monsanto Over Seed Contamination

3/30/2011 12:00:00 AM

Tags: Monsanto, news, seed contamination, organic farming

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailOn behalf of more than 50 agricultural associations, farmers and farms, the Public Patent Foundation (PubPat) has filed a lawsuit seeking to prohibit Monstanto from suing farmers or dealers whose seeds become contaminated by the global giant’s genetically modified seeds.

Since January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cleared the way for genetically modified alfalfa, sugar beets and a new type of biotech corn for ethanol. The lawsuit, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan by organic family farmers, small businesses and organizations who are concerned that Monsanto may sue them for patent infringement if their seeds are contaminated.

Monsanto has won several lawsuits against farmers that it claimed used their seeds without paying royalties, but in several cases the farmers claim their crops were contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically altered crops without their knowledge. Monsanto’s 'Roundup Ready' soybeans, corn and cotton are ubiquitous in the United States. When released into the environment, they can contaminate and destroy organic crops.

'This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's genetically modified seed should land on their property,' said PubPat executive director Dan Ravicher. “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.”

'These efforts seek to reduce private and public investment in the development of new higher-yielding seed technologies,” Monsanto said in a statement. “While we respect the views of organic farmers as it relates to the products they choose to grow, we don't believe that American agriculture faces an all-or-nothing approach.'

PubPat states in the lawsuit that genetically modified seeds have negative economic and health effects. “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,” said Ravicher. “Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB's and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not. Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not.”

'Today is Independence Day for America,” said Jim Gerritsen, a Maine farmer and president of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “Today we are seeking protection from the Court and putting Monsanto on notice. Monsanto's threats and abuse of family farmers stops here. Monsanto's genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now. 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. Beginning today, America asserts her right to justice and pure food.'

See the full complaint at www.osgata.org.



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