Organic farmers expand lawsuit against Monsanto – June 03, 2011

Source: Nature, NewsBlog June 03, 2011

An ambitious lawsuit against the agricultural firm Monsanto got a little bigger this week, and a lawyer for the plaintiffs hopes that this is only the beginning.

The case was initially filed in March by the Public Patent Foundation (PubPat), a non-profit legal services organization based at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, on behalf of 60 organic farmers and associated organizations. The farmers want assurance from Monsanto that they will not be sued for patent infringement if their farms become contaminated with the company’s genetically modified crops.

On 1 June, PubPat announced that the list of plaintiffs had grown to 83, and that the original complaint had been amended to include a recent exchange with Monsanto’s lawyers. In a letter written on behalf of Monsanto, Seth Waxman, former solicitor general under Bill Clinton and a partner at the law firm WilmerHale in Washington, DC, said Monsanto has no intention of suing the farmers for patent infringement. “Monsanto policy never has been, nor will be, to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of its patented seed or traits are present in a farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means,” he wrote, echoing a statement Monsanto has also made on its website.

But rather than placating PubPat, executive director Daniel Ravicher says he saw a veiled threat in the statement’s ambiguity. Farmers whose crops contain more than a “trace” — whatever that means — of contamination are still vulnerable to action by Monsanto, he argues. Instead, Ravicher wants a legally binding declaration that Monsanto will not sue his clients for patent infringement.

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  1. Personally, I don’t understand why organic farmers cannot sue Monsanto if their crops become contaminated by Monsanto genetically modified seeds. Shouldn’t the onus be on Monsanto to create buffer zones etc, so that their genetically modified products cannot leave their property line. I agree that Monsanto has no right to sue organic farmers, but neither do they have the right to pollute the environment with their genetically engineered nightmares.

  2. To say that I am very disappointed with the Honorable Judge Buchwald’s runlig on this case would be a grave understatement. But I am frankly, not that surprised. I got involved early on in this effort as it was an important first step in the process. And it will be a process to build a case that is carefully crafted to meet the courts expectations.In this day when so many claim to be fighting to protect the environment it would nice to start developing a strategy to reach across the isle to increase support for this very critical issue that threatens the future of organic and sustainable agriculture. The short sighted efforts of some political opportunists to destroy capitalism, under the guise of climate change is threatening the very farms that feed them. It seems to be in vogue to attack big oil yet Monsanto continues to go unchecked as it slowly but surely monopolizes greater portions of the worlds food supply. It was easy enough for the public to understand the danger of a telecommunications firm controlling too much of the market, WHY is it so hard for us to educate the public of the problems Monsanto poses? Not only is there the threat of monopoly but it is simultaneously threatening to the destruction organic food production.It is time for some honest reassessment of priorities. Monsanto has given us genetically engineered food that poses very real health risks, their products have created super weeds, super pathogens and super bugs! If we do not get a handle on this threat, not just our environment but our mortality as well- and quickly, we need not worry about the climate in a hundred years.

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