By Deniza Gertsberg
In mid-July, Monsanto filed a motion with the Federal court in New York to have the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA), et al., case dismissed against it. Monsanto’s motion was in response to a complaint filedearlier this year by eighty-three family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses, and agricultural organizations challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds. The complaint also asked the court to declare that Monsanto cannot sue plaintiffs should the company’s transgenic seed land on their property.
Plaintiffs include thirty-three family farms and individual farmers from throughout the United States, fourteen seed businesses and thirty-six agricultural membership organizations. According to the accompanying brief filed by PUBPAT in opposition to Monsanto’s motion to dismiss, filed on August 11, 2011, each plaintiff strives to farm and/or do business without the use of transgenic seed, but is nonetheless fearful that either the fields or the seed products each sells could become contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed and then be accused by Monsanto of patent infringement. It has happened before.
The fear of a lawsuit, argued PUBPAT on behalf of plaintiffs, “arises from the highly contaminating nature of Monsanto’s transgenic seed and Monsanto’s well known aggressive patent assertion tactics. This fear is so strong that it causes some plaintiffs to forgo growing crops that they otherwise have the capacity and desire to grow.” In fact, according to the amended complaint filed by plaintiffs, Monsanto is said to have investigated roughly 500 farmers per year for patent infringement and between 1997 and April 2010, it filed 144 lawsuits against farmers in 27 different states for infringement of or breach of license to its transgenic seed patents.
In its August court filing, PUBPAT further explains the plaintiffs’ concerns as follows:
Over the past 30 years, Monsanto has extinguished the majority of independent seed companies in the course of growing its transgenic seed business. Monsanto didn’t just patent transgenic seed; it embarked on a mission to destroy non-transgenic agriculture. Because of its restrictive licensing, aggressive litigation, and old-fashioned bullying, Monsanto is en route to dominating every American field devoted to farming. The release of transgenic seed that is self-propagating results in its patented seed being virtually everywhere, spreading like a virus without containment, disregarding the property lines and personal wishes of farmers and seed businesses who wish to avoid its harmful effects.
Also in response to Monsanto’s motion to dismiss twelve additional agricultural organizations, which include members who feed grain to livestock and poultry, certify organic production of crops, use grains or cotton as raw ingredients for other products, and who consume or use products made from these crops, filed an amici brief, supporting the right of plaintiffs to bring the case.
Read more at GMO Journal