Monthly Archives: June 2013

Appeals Court Binds Monsanto to Promise Not to Sue Organic Farmers

Court of Appeals Issues Decision in Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v Monsanto

Washington, D.C.— Yesterday, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a decision to dismiss a lawsuit brought against Monsanto by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) and 82 other plaintiffs after the biotech giant made binding assurances that it will not sue organic farmers if the company’s genetically engineered (GE) seeds contaminate their fields.

The case, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto, was originally in March 2011 by organic farmers, seed growers, and agricultural organizations representing more than 300,000 farmers. The lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs to seek protection for farmers whose fields can become contaminated by Monsanto’s GE seed and then be sued by the company for patent infringement.

In the ruling issued yesterday the Court of Appeals judges affirmed the Southern District of New York’s previous decision. The lower Court ruled that the plaintiffs did not present a sufficient controversy to warrant adjudication, given that throughout the lawsuit Monsanto “made binding assurances that it will not take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), views the decision as a partial victory. “The decision means that the farmers did have the right to bring the suit to protect themselves, but now that Monsanto has bound itself to not suing the plaintiffs, the Court of Appeals believes the suit should not move forward,” said Ravicher. “The decision also allows farmers who are contaminated to sue Monsanto and Monsanto’s customers for the harm caused by that contamination without fear of a retaliation patent infringement claim.”

The plaintiffs’ complaint detailed Monsanto’s history of aggressive patent enforcement and detailed the societal harms caused by Monsanto’s GE seed, including the proliferation of herbicide-resistant “superweeds” and the increased use of pesticides which are applied to “Roundup-ready” crops. The plaintiffs also argued the legality of Monsanto’s patents.

“OEFFA members and farmers across the United States undertook this action because of legitimate concerns about Monsanto’s overreaching protection of their patents. We’re encouraged by the Court’s determination that Monsanto does not have the right to sue farmers for trace contamination,” said Carol Goland, OEFFA’s Executive Director. “However, we are disappointed that the courts have not taken action to protect our food supply from the continued proliferation of Monsanto’s GE technology.”

Despite the Court of Appeals’ decision, plaintiffs still have the option to ask the Supreme Court to review the decision and reinstate the case. Plaintiffs have 90 days to request a Supreme Court review.

For more information about the lawsuit, click here. For more information about OEFFA’s work on GE food, click here.

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The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Contact: Carol Goland, OEFFA, Executive Director, (740) 398-9099, cgoland@oeffa.org; Daniel Ravicher, PUBPAT, (212) 461-1902, ravicher@pubpat.org

Fresh, Local Foods Just a Click Away in Ohio

 
By Mary Kuhlman
Ohio Public News Service
6/10/13

COLUMBUS, Ohio – This summer, Ohioans can find fresh, locally grown food by using their computer or smartphone. The Good Earth Guide is a searchable, online directory that connects consumers to growers and food producers in their own communities.

Maplestar Farm in Geauga County has been featured for several years in the guide, which is newly updated. Maplestar owner Jake Trethewey said the listings include sources for almost anything – from vegetables, fruits and herbs to flowers and plants.

“The Good Earth Guide gives consumers out there a one-stop shop to find not only growers, but people who are raising poultry and beef,” Trethewey said, as well as a whole range of products that are close to them and grown and raised organically.”

This year’s Good Earth Guide includes information on more than 400 farms and businesses in Ohio and surrounding states, including 180 certified organic operations. Each listing states contact information and products sold, and many also include locations and maps.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association has been compiling the guide for more than 20 years. It began with just a dozen listings. Trethewey said its growth speaks to the increased demand for sustainably grown, local foods.

“Every year it gets better and better. More people are interested – not only in the organics, but in cultivating that knowledge, that relationship with the farmer, knowing who it is that’s growing your food and how they are growing it,” he said.

Besides helping people find local producers, the guide connects those in the farming community. Trethewey said he has used it to network, find supplies and hire apprentices to work at his farm.

“One of the primary resources is getting together with other growers, finding out what worked for them and passing on the ideas, techniques and products that work for you to other growers, as well,” he said.

Creamery is first stop in series of farm tours

 
By Mary Vanac
The Columbus Dispatch
6/8/13

Consumers’ quest for more locally produced food is sending them back to the farm.

This year’s Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series, which starts today at Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, offers learning opportunities for both consumers and farmers.

“As consumer demand for fresh, locally produced food and farm products has grown, there has been a desire to reconnect with the farm and understand how that food gets from the field to the table,” said Lauren Ketcham, communications coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which has run the tours for more than three decades.

In addition to the Meigs County dairy, this year’s organic- and ecological-farms stops include a sustainable cut-flower farm in Franklin County, a Licking County organic-vegetable farm, a Fairfield County beef farm that markets its jerky and snack sticks directly to consumers, and an organic farm that is doing a canning workshop.

Most of the tours are free and open to the public; a few charge fees and require registration.

This year, Ohio State University Extension and the Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts will offer seven of the 24 stops on the tour, while OEFFA will handle the remaining 17 stops, Ketcham said.

“We feel that consumer education is an important part of our mission,” she said. “The more consumers know about how their food is grown, the better prepared they are to make informed choices about who to support with their local food dollars.”

The tours also are designed to help farmers and gardeners “learn from each other so they can improve their production and marketing techniques, and grow their operations,” she said.

Ketcham is looking forward to the July 28 tour of Sunny Meadows Flower Farm in Columbus, and to the July 21 tour of Northridge Organic Farm in Johnstown. Mike and Laura Laughlin are turning their farm over to young farmer Joseph Swain.

The tour series is all about offering farmers alternatives, said Mike Hogan, an OSU Extension educator in Fairfield County.

“Our goal is to give people ideas to make their farm operations more sustainable,” Hogan said. “ We give them ideas about alternative enterprises, alternative production systems, like grazing or no-till, and alternative marketing systems.”

The July tour of Berry Family Farm in Pleasantville shows how one producer has added facets to its operation, Hogan said.

“They’re adding value to beef products, selling jerky, summer sausage and snack sticks directly to consumers, as well as marketing freezer beef.”

At Snowville Creamery, owner Warren Taylor put his workers through their public speaking paces yesterday in preparation for today’s open house from 1 to 4 p.m.

Snowville supplies milk, cream, yogurt and creme fraiche to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus and select grocers from Ohio to Virginia.

“This year, we have organized ourselves into a dozen functional areas, each of which will have a Snowville Creamery team member explaining that area,” Taylor said.

Taylor spent a career designing and engineering milk-production facilities around the world for the nation’s largest dairy companies. He said he started Snowville as a reaction against the few large dairies, which he thinks are too powerful.

“I have long since decided that Snowville Creamery’s purpose goes far beyond milk,” Taylor said. “It goes to advocating for representative democracy in America.”

For a full tour listing, visit www.oeffa.org.