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.
- Organic farmers sue, seek protection from Monsanto (Westlaw)
- Echoing Big Agribusiness, Farmers Sue Monsanto (The Atlantic)