In early February, we reported that a Federal District Court judge agreed to hear oral arguments for a landmark lawsuit - Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. v. Monsanto.
Over 300,000 people including farmers, seed growers and agricultural organizations participated in the case against Monsanto.
The lawsuit seeks to invalidate Monsanto's patents on genetically modified (GMO) seeds and to prohibit the company from suing those whose crops become genetically contaminated because they drift through the air.
Last Friday, Judge Naomi Buchwald ruled in favor of Monsanto by dismissing the case.
Daniel Ravicher, lead attorney for the 81 plaintiffs represented in the lawsuit, says, "While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world's foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing."
"Her belief, that farmers are acting unreasonably when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement, should their crops become contaminated, maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers."
Ravicher says the judge failed to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and mischaracterized the Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers' standing. "In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law. Thankfully, the plaintiffs have the right to proceed to the Court of Appeals, which will review the matter without deference to her findings."
Monsanto's history of aggressive investigations and lawsuits brought against farmers in America has been a source of concern for organic and non-GMO agricultural producers since Monsanto's first lawsuit brought against a farmer in the mid-‘90s. Since then, 144 farmers have had lawsuits filed against them by Monsanto for alleged violations of their patented seed technology.
Monsanto has sued more than 700 additional farmers who have settled out-of-court rather than face Monsanto's belligerent, and well-financed, litigious actions.
Many of these farmers claim to not have had the intention to grow or save seeds that contain Monsanto's patented genes. Seed contamination and pollen drift from genetically engineered crops often migrate to neighboring fields. If Monsanto's seed technology is found on a farmer's land without a contract the farmer can be found liable for patent infringement.
"Family farmers need the protection of the court," says Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, the lead plaintiff.
"We reject as naïve and indefensible the judge's assertion that Monsanto's vague public relations 'commitment [not to sue farmers for 'trace amounts' of their seeds are genetically engineered traits], should be 'a source of comfort' to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto," he says.
"Monsanto is the big biotechnology bully and has used the courts, for years, to intimidate farmers," says Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, another plaintiff. "The purpose of our lawsuit is to preemptively challenge its reign of intimidation over organic farmers, and others, who have chosen not to jump on their genetically engineered bandwagon."
Today food justice advocates will continue resisting corporate control of the food system with a global day of action called Occupy Our Food Supply.