Judge Sides With Monsanto: Dismisses Farmers’ Right to Grow Food Without Fear, Contamination, and Economic Harm

For Immediate Release: February 28, 2012

Contact:

Carol Goland, OEFFA, Executive Director, cgoland@oeffa.org, (614) 421-2022

Daniel Ravicher, PUBPAT, ravicher@pubpat.org, 212-461-1902

Press Release

New York, NY—On February 24, Judge Naomi Buchwald handed down her ruling on a motion to dismiss in the case of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto after hearing oral argument on January 31 in Federal District Court in Manhattan.  Her ruling to dismiss the case brought against Monsanto on behalf of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) and other organic farmers, seed grower, and agricultural organizations representing farmers and citizens was met with great disappointment by the plaintiffs.

Plaintiff lead attorney Daniel Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) said, “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 unreasonable 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.  Her failure to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and her characterization of binding Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers’ standing as ‘wholly inapposite’ constitute legal error.  In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law.  Thankfully, the plaintiffs have the right to appeal 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 have been a source of concern for organic and non-GMO farmers since Monsanto’s first lawsuit brought against a farmer in the mid-90’s.  Since then, 144 farmers have had lawsuits brought against them by Monsanto for alleged violations of their patented seed technology.  Monsanto has brought charges against more than 700 additional farmers who have settled out-of-court rather than face Monsanto’s 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 drift and pollen drift from genetically engineered crops often contaminate neighboring fields. If Monsanto’s seed technology is found on a farmer’s land without contract they can be found liable for patent infringement.

“OEFFA members and farmers across the United States undertook this action because of legitimate concerns about Monsanto’s overreaching protection of their patents.  It is disappointing in the extreme that in addition to the economic losses suffered by organic and other non-GMO farmers in order to avoid contamination, they now must continue to operate in fear of Monsanto’s assertion of patent infringement,” said Carol Goland, OEFFA’s Executive Director.

“Family farmers need the protection of the court,” said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of OSGATA.  “We reject as naïve and undefendable the judge’s assertion that Monsanto’s vague public relations ‘commitment’ should be ‘a source of comfort’ to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto.  The truth is that American farmers and the American people do not believe Monsanto. Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice.”

The plaintiffs brought this suit against Monsanto to seek judicial protection from such lawsuits and challenge the validity of Monsanto’s patents on seeds.

A copy of the judge’s decision is available here: http://woodprairiefarm.commercev3.com/downloads/OSGATA%20v%20Monsanto%20-%20MTD%20Decision.pdf

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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, visit www.oeffa.org.