Group won't give up on Monsanto lawsuit

Published online: Sep 14, 2013
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Groups that refuse to accept that Monsanto biotechnology products, or any biotechnology products are safe, continue to try and use the courts to stop biotechnology crop production.

Although lawsuits don't proclaim their intent to stop biotechnology, some lawsuits try to alter the law under which biotechnology can be used in conventional farming. After having a lawsuit stopped by a court of appeals, a group has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in.

A group of 73 mainly organic farmers, seed businesses and public advocacy groups asked the Supreme Court this week to hear their case against Monsanto Company challenging biotech seed patents on genetically engineered seed. In Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto, the plaintiffs sued preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their fields ever become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically engineered seed.

In a June 10 ruling this year, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that organic farmers and seed company plaintiffs are not entitled to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from Monsanto's transgenic seed patents "because Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not 'take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower's land).'"

The lawyers involved for the plaintiffs claim there is reason for appealing the lower court ruling. "While the Court of Appeals correctly found that the farmers and seed sellers had standing to challenge Monsanto's invalid patents, it incorrectly found that statements made by Monsanto's lawyers during the lawsuit mooted the case," said Daniel Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs inOSGATA et al v. Monsanto. "As a result, we have asked the Supreme Court to take the case and reinstate the right of the plaintiffs to seek full protection from Monsanto's invalid transgenic seed patents."

The plaintiffs brought the pre-emptive case against Monsanto in March 2011 and specifically say they are seeking to defend themselves from nearly two dozen of Monsanto's patents on GMO seed. They claim to have been forced to act pre-emptively to protect themselves from Monsanto's "abusive lawsuits," fearing that if GMO seed contaminates their property despite their efforts to prevent such contamination, Monsanto will sue them for patent infringement.

Statements by representatives of the plaintiffs show overt dislike for Monsanto and biotechnology crops, and not all of it is based on facts in this lawsuit.  

"We have been farming for almost 40 years and we have never wanted anything to do with Monsanto," said Jim Gerritsen, an organic seed farmer in Maine and president of lead plaintiff OSGATA.  "We believe we have the right to farm and grow good food the way we choose. We don't think it's fair that Monsanto can trespass onto our farm, contaminate and ruin our crops and then sue us for infringing on their patent rights. We don't want one penny from Monsanto. American farmers deserve their day in court so we can prove to the world Monsanto's genetically engineered patents are invalid and that farmers deserve protection from Monsanto's abuse." 

Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, said, "For the past 20 years, Monsanto has used its political and financial power to foist a deeply flawed technology on America's farmers, consistently underestimating the real risks of genetic engineering while putting America's farmers, the environment and the public in harm's way simply in the name of profit. As the leading arbiters of justice in the U.S., it behooves the Supreme Court to hear this important case to protect America's farmers from abusive patent infringement lawsuits and invalidate Monsanto's flawed patents as their products have been shown to be damaging to human health and the environment and failed to live up to the marketing hype."