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Organic farmers sue Monsanto

Published time: July 28, 2011 16:50
Edited time: July 28, 2011 21:13
Organic farmers are taking on corporate America.

Organic farmers are taking on corporate America.

Nearly 300,000 organic farmers are filing suit against corporate agriculture giant Monsanto, who have in recent years squashed independent organic farms from coast to coast.

270,000 organic farmers filed a lawsuit in March 30 in an attempt to keep a portion of the world’s food supply organic. The plaintiffs in the case are members of around 60 family farms, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations.

Led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, the suit lashes out at Monsanto to keep their engineered Genuity® Roundup Ready® canola seed out of their farms. Organic agriculturalists say that corn, cotton, sugar beets and other crops of theirs have been contaminated by Monsanto‘s seed, and even though the contamination has been largely natural and unintended, Monsanto has been suing hundreds of farmers for infringing on their patent for incidentally using their product.

Not only are organic farmers trying to keep things — well, organic — but now many of them are being forced to throw in the towel as Monsanto unfortunately continues a successful war on the competition by suing indie growers that run organic farms. In recent years, Monsanto has acquired more than 20 of the biggest seed producers and sellers in the country, and The Street reports that they have instituted a policy whereas their customers are forced to use their bionengineered seeds — and purchase them each and every year — lest they want to be blacklisted forever.

The Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation into Monsanto’s “customer incentive programs” last year, and the Department of Justice has been probing into possible antirust violation relating to the blacklisting of customers since 2009.

As Monsanto buys out competitors and sues others, last year’s profits went up by 77 percent to $680 million.

US federal Judge Naomi Buchwald will be overseeing the case of Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto in a Manhattan court room.

Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), said in a statement that the case comes down to “whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed or pollen should land on their property.”

“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.”

PUBAT has filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 270,000 plaintiffs. The foundation serves as a not-for-profit legal service organization that is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.