Farmers Go to Court On Our Behalf

By Shawn Dell Joyce

It’s not for money.

Rather, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association is suing Monsanto Corp., the genetic engineering giant, to protect itself from being accused of infringing patents on transgenic, or genetically modified, seed.

The seed growers filed suit on behalf of 300,000 organic farmers and growers who shun genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that it controls the genetics of nearly 90 percent of five major commodity crops: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. This has resulted in onerous costs to farmers through high technology patent fees for seeds as well as burdensome litigation costs in defending themselves against lawsuits asserted by Monsanto, which has filed a motion to dismiss the current lawsuit.

This is ironic, considering how often Monsanto has dragged farmers through lawsuits. From 1997 through April 2010, Monsanto filed 144 suits against American farmers in at least 27 states, for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents and/or breach of its license to those patents, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. As a result of these aggressive lawsuits, farmers live in fear of accidental cross-pollination of their fields by genetically-engineered crops. Monsanto has generated an atmosphere of fear and loathing in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

“I don’t think it’s fair that Monsanto should be able to sue my family for patent infringement because their transgenic seed trespasses onto our farm and contaminates and ruins our organic crop,” testified farmer Bryce Stephens of Kansas-based Stephens’ Land and Cattle Co. “We have had to abandon raising corn because we are afraid Monsanto wouldn’t control their genetic pollution and then they would come after us for patent infringement. It’s not right.”

Some 200 million acres of the world’s farms grew biotech crops last year, with many of these farms located next to, or near, organic farms. Genetically Modified Organisms move around in the ecosystem through pollen, wind, and natural cross-fertilization. The Union of Concerned Scientists conducted two separate independent laboratory tests on non-modified seeds “representing a substantial proportion of the traditional seed supply” for corn, soy and oilseed rape.

The test found that half the corn and soy, and 83 percent of the oilseed rape were contaminated with modified genes eight years after the genetically modified varieties were first grown on a large scale in the United States.

The reports state that “Heedlessly allowing the contamination of traditional plant varieties with genetically engineered sequences amounts to a huge wager on our ability to understand a complicated technology that manipulates life at the most elemental level.” There could be “serious risks to health” if drugs and industrial chemicals from the next generation of GM crops were consumed in food.

Some organic and conventional farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops in order to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Jim Gerritsen, the president of OSGATA and owner of Wood Prairie Farm in Maine states: “We are family farmers and we are in court to let the judge know that our survival as farmers depends on this lawsuit. We’re not asking Monsanto for one penny. We just want justice for our farmers and we want court protection from Monsanto.”


2 Responses to “Farmers Go to Court On Our Behalf”

  1. Valerie Lucznikowska Says:

    This is a bit like shooting someone and then suing them for stealing your bullet.

  2. Valencia Knezevic Says:

    When i am given a chance to choose the foods i eat, i always choose the ones that comes from Organic Farms since they are safer than pesticide ladden foods.^

    Take a look at the most up-to-date article at our very own web portal

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