Organic farmers’ case against Monsanto thrown out by judge

A corn scientist holds an ear of biotech corn inside a greenhouse at Monsanto’s research facilities in Chesterfield, Mo. On Friday, a federal judge threw out a case by a large number of farmers who were suing Monsanto to stop lawsuits against farmers who inadvertently ended up with Monsanto genes in their crops. (Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Federal Dist. Judge Naomi Buchwald ruled Friday to dismiss the case brought by organic farmers to stop patent infringement lawsuits brought by seed giant Monsanto. The suit, called OSGATA et al. vs. Monsanto, was brought by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Assn. (OSGATA), as well as 82 other plaintiffs representing as many as 300,000 farmers.

“We’re Americans. We believe in the system. But we’re disappointed in the judge,” said Jim Gerritsen, an organic seed farmer in Maine and OSGATA president.

The farmers had sought a declaratory judgment against Monsanto to stop the agribusiness giant from suing farmers who ended up with patented genes in their seed crops through cross-contamination via wind or other accidental methods. Monsanto has said for years that it would not sue farmers who inadvertently acquired their patented genes, yet there have been over a hundred such lawsuits, including several against farmers who proved they had no intention of using Monsanto genes, and an unknown number of settlements that have not been disclosed. The farmers contend that this amounts to harassment, and that many of them have stopped growing profitable crops such as corn because of fear of contamination by Monsanto crops.

The famers had hoped that one result of the law would be a reexamination of the patents held by Monsanto, which they claim are fraudulent. The judge’s ruling did not address those matters.

The plaintiff’s lead attorney, Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation at Cardozo Law School, said in a statement that he believes the judge made an error.

“Her failure to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and her characterization of binding Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers’ standing as ‘wholly inapposite’ constitute legal error. In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law.”

Gerritsen says the farmers he represents will fight on.

“The situation that brought us to court is still there. Farmers need the protection of the court. We filed a completely legitimate lawsuit under the Declaratory Judgment Act. We do understand that we have the right to appeal.” He points out it’s a big group, and 83 different entities have to agree to go forward with the appeal. “This is already underway,” he says. “The discussions have already begun.”

Author: Dean Kuipers
Source: Los Angeles Times



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