Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Farmers, growers and seed suppliers join to sue Monsanto

From NOFA/Mass--the suit, which was filed yesterday, seeks to protect farmers from Monsanto, which has filed patent infringement suits in some cases where pollen from the company's genetically-modified crops has contaminated crops grown in nearby fields. You can read the text of the suit here.

NEW YORK - March 29, 2011 - On behalf of the Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc. (NOFA/Mass) and others, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company to challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed. The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic and non-GMO agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it.

"This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic and other farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto's genetically modified seed should land on their property," said Dan Ravicher, lead attorney in the case and PUBPAT's Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. "It seems quite perverse that a farmer contaminated by GM 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."

Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed contaminates and destroys organic seed for the same crop. Soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, for example, organic canola became virtually extinct as a result of contamination. Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa now face the same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops, too. Monsanto is developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.

In the case, plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that if they are ever contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed; they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One basis for such a ruling would be that Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don't meet the "usefulness" requirement of patent law, according to Jack Kittredge, NOFA/Mass Policy Director.

This lawsuit filing comes on the heels of a recent controversial USDA decision to deregulate genetically modified alfalfa, the fourth largest crop grown in the US and a major source of feed to the nation's meat producers. Arguments against genetically modified food crops include concerns about lack of long-term studies of its effects on human health, concerns for biodiversity within our crop varieties, and contamination of crops grown by organic and other non-GMO farmers.

The Public Patent Foundation, is a not-for-profit legal services organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. PUBPAT represents the public interest against undeserved patents and unsound patent policy.

For more info, you can contact the Public Patent Foundation at, or Jack Kittredge at NOFA/Mass,

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