Battle Over Farmers’ Rights Against Monsanto Continues to Brew: Farmers File Appeal
On March 28, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, family farmers filed their Notice of Appeal to Judge Naomi Buchwald’s February 24th ruling dismissing Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will hear the farmers’ appeal, seeking to reinstate the case, which has received worldwide attention.
The farmers and organizations involved, including the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), are determined to move forward with their lawsuit challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed technologies in order to continue their pursuit of Declaratory Judgment Act court protection from Monsanto’s claims of patent infringement should their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s seed.
“Farmers have the right to protect themselves from being falsely accused of patent infringement by Monsanto before they are contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed,” said Dan Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), a not-for-profit legal services organization based at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law that represents the plaintiffs. “Judge Buchwald erred by denying plaintiffs that right and they have now initiated the process of having her decision reversed.”
The original complaint in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto was filed on March 29, 2011. In July, Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss. Plaintiff lawyers at PUBPAT then filed a rebuttal brief on August 11, 2011. Judge Buchwald called for oral argument on the motion to dismiss, which was held in Manhattan on January 31, 2012. The judge’s dismissal ruling was issued February 24th and plaintiffs were given thirty days in which to file their Notice of Appeal.
The plaintiff/appellant group is comprised of individual family farmers, small and family-owned seed companies, and agricultural organizations. They are all organic or committed to farming without using genetically engineered seeds, and have no desire to ever farm with Monsanto’s patented GMO technology. However, they are fearful that Monsanto seed will trespass onto their farms and that the resulting contamination of their crops will be viewed by Monsanto as illegal ‘possession’ resulting in patent infringement allegations.
Monsanto’s harassment of family farmers is well known in farm country, the biotech seed and chemical giant has one of the most aggressive patent assertion records in U.S. history. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 cases out of court for undisclosed amounts and imposing gag orders on farmers. The farmers’ fears were heightened when Monsanto refused to provide a legally binding covenant not to sue, signaling Monsanto’s intention to maintain their option to sue innocent family farmers in the future.
The appellants in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc. (OCIA); Food Democracy Now!; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Mendocino Organic Network (California); Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems (Montana); Global Organic Alliance; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; Weston A. Price Foundation; Center for Food Safety; Beyond Pesticides; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York; Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (Wisconsin); Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Florida Organic Growers; Peace River Organic Producers Association (Alberta and British Columbia); FEDCO Seeds, Inc. (Maine); Adaptive Seeds, LLC (Oregon); Sow True Seed (North Carolina); Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Virginia); Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds (Saskatchewan); Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC (Missouri); Comstock, Ferre & Co. LLC (Connecticut); Seedkeepers, LLC (California); Siskiyou Seeds (Oregon); Countryside Organics (Virginia); Cuatro Puertas (New Mexico); Seed We Need (Montana), Wild Garden Seed (Oregon); Alba Ranch (Kansas); Wild Plum Farm (Montana); Gratitude Gardens (Washington); Richard Everett Farm, LLC (Nebraska); Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc. (Wisconsin); Genesis Farm (New Jersey); Chispas Farms, LLC (New Mexico); Midheaven Farms (Minnesota); Koskan Farms (South Dakota); California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm (North Dakota); Taylor Farms, Inc. (Utah); Ron Gargasz Organic Farms (Pennsylvania); Abundant Acres (Missouri); T & D Willey Farms (California); Quinella Ranch (Saskatchewan); Nature’s Way Farm, Ltd. (Alberta); Levke and Peter Eggers Farm (Alberta); Frey Vineyards, Ltd. (California); Bryce Stephens (Kansas); Chuck Noble (South Dakota); LaRhea Pepper (Texas); Paul Romero (New Mexico); Donald Wright Patterson, Jr. (Virginia); Common Good Farm; LLC (Nebraska); American Buffalo Company (Nebraska; Full Moon Farm, Inc. (Vermont); Radiance Dairy (Iowa); Brian L. Wickert (Wisconsin); Bruce Drinkman (Wisconsin); and Murray Bast (Ontario).
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.