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Farmers Sue Monsanto For Organic Crop Protection

A group of organic farmers are suing Monsanto to contest their patent on genetically modified seeds.

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Photo: live w mcs (flickr)

If testing discovers modified genes in an organic crop, that renders the crop worthless on the organic market.

David Vs. Goliath

A group of 60 organic farmers from across the U.S. have joined forces to sue Monsanto in an effort to contest the agribusiness titan’s patent on their genetically modified seeds. The Public Patent Foundation is handling the suit on their behalf.

Because of how the U.S. patent system works, Monsanto technically owns the genes contained in any of their GMO crop seeds, like their popular “Roundup Ready” soybeans and corn. So, if a farmer is planting “Roundup Ready” corn and his neighbor is growing organic corn, and testing discovers any of the modified genes in the neighbor’s crop, the neighbor can be sued by Monsanto under their patent.

Incidentally, this also renders his corn useless on the organic market.

What the consortium of plaintiff farmers is arguing is that the neighbor’s crop was merely a victim of cross-contamination. After all, no one – not even Monsanto – can control how the wind blows. They also raise concerns about the accidental mixing of organic and GMO seeds in the seed-cleaning process.

Monsanto is known for being aggressive in defending their patents, and with the recent approval of GMO alfalfa, they’re looking to expand their genetically modified market.

War Of Words

“These efforts seek to reduce private and public investment in the development of new higher-yielding seed technologies,” Monsanto representatives said in a statement. “While we respect the views of organic farmers as it relates to the products they choose to grow, we don’t believe that American agriculture faces an all-or-nothing approach.”

But the farmers and other plaintiffs who worry about the purity of their crops, like Carol Goland, executive director of the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association, see this as an attack on the work of the organic farmer.

“On behalf of farmers who must live under this cloud of uncertainty and risk, we are compelled to ask the Court to put an end to this unconscionable business practice,” Goland said in a press release.

Read More:

  • Organic farmers sue, seek protection from Monsanto (Westlaw)
  • Echoing Big Agribusiness, Farmers Sue Monsanto (The Atlantic)
Carrie Schedler

Carrie Schedler is a senior at Indiana University studying journalism, English and French. She's originally from Columbus, Ohio, and still dreams often about salty caramel ice cream from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and baguettes from her semester abroad in Paris. Hopefully, she'll learn how to cook eventually.

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  • Chester

    Is there anyone else out there but me who sees this issue in terms of pollution?   It seems to me that, if a large corporation owned a tank farm, and petrochemicals seeped from the tanks into the ground water, there would be no question of liability, and the victims of the polluted water would be the aggrieved party.   But if a seed conglomerate lets such pesky influences as bees and wafting zephyrs distribute their genetically modified pollen all over their neighbors’ fields, despite lack of interest on the part of many of their neighbors, an appeal to the court ensues for protection of their patent rights.   A wise and all seeing Solomon would tell the bees to stop stealing, the winds to stop blowing, and all sides to stop whining.   Then he would throw out all such suits before his bench, and leave the little guys alone.

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