Thirty-one family farmers, plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit OSGATA et al v. Monsanto, travelled to Washington, D.C., from across North America to attend the Oral Argument in the Appeal of Dismissal heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Thursday January 10, 2013.
The lawsuit was originally filed in March 2011 in Federal District Court in New York, and challenges the validity of Monsanto’s transgenic seed patents. The plaintiffs are also seeking preemptive court protection should Monsanto’s seed trespass onto their farms and contaminate their organic and non-GE crops.
Attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) began his argument, “This case boils down to a simple question. If plaintiffs don’t have standing now, when will they? Do they have to wait to be contaminated by defendant’s seed and be exposed to liability risks? Do they have to wait until Monsanto directly threatens them?”
Monsanto attorney Seth Waxman argues that the plaintiffs don’t have standing as his client had never sued a farmer for the kind of situation alleged by OSGATA and had no desire to. “Monsanto said it has never sued any farmers that did not wish to take affirmative advantages of its patented technology.” He continued to call our fear of patent litigation “baseless.”Our plaintiffs, however, think otherwise. Many farmers have been forced to stop growing certain crops to avoid transgenic contamination. The threat of potential lawsuits from Monsanto, who has a history of aggressive and litigious behavior, has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America.
“I think it was a very robust hearing,” Gerritsen reported to the PenBay Pilot following Thursday’s events. “The judges had done their homework and were familiar with the law behind it. In that way it was a significant improvement over the hearing last year in New York.”
The full audio of the hearing is available here.
Following the Oral Argument, farmer-plaintiffs marched to Lafayette Square to join hundreds of supporters in demand of the right to farm without the threat of harassment by the world’s largest biotech seed company. Among those offering the enthusiastic crowd a distillation of the lawsuit, as well as the morning’s events, were PUBPAT’s Dan Ravicher and OSGATA President Jim Gerritsen.
He said, “Family farmers need and deserve the right to farm. We have a right to grow good food and good seed for our families and our communities without the threat of trespass and intimidation..We need Court protection so that our families will be able to carry on our farming tradition and help keep America strong.”
A brief video from the frontlines of the rally for farmers’ rights was compiled by Sow True Seeds, who travelled from North Carolina for the event.
Among those travelling to DC were representatives of OSGATA’s membership including: Cuatro Puertas, Fedco Seeds, Kingbird Farm, Many Hands Organic Farm, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Sow True Seeds, and Wood Prairie Farm.
OSGATA would like to thank everyone for all the generous donations and kind support that enabled farmer-plaintiffs to unite in solidarity.