In an “it’s about time” role reversal, the Public Patent Foundation filed suit against GMO seed giant Monsanto on Tuesday, March 29, 2011.
Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, filed on behalf of organic farmers, seed sellers and other agricultural organizations, is a preemptive strike designed to prevent Monsanto (the lovely folks who also brought us Agent Orange, RoundUp and rGBH) from suing organic farmers for patent infringement when Monsanto’s genetically modified seed contaminates organic crops.
Thanks to twisted interpretation and enforcement of patent law, Monsanto has maintained the right to sue the pants off of small family farms whose fields are contaminated with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GMO seed by no fault of the organic farmer. That’s right. Monsanto’s genetically modified seed can blow onto a field, be carried in by a bird or washed over by rain and Monsanto will waltz right into court and sue the beegeesus out of you just as if you broke into one of their warehouses and knowingly planted stolen seed. Ridiculous, right? Well that’s what the Public Patent Foundation hopes Judge Naomi Buchwald will think.
Dan Ravicher, the Public Patent Foundation’s Executive Director and Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York said:
“It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”
If the organic farmers win this round, Monsanto will have limited ability to bring suit against farmers for patent infringement in cases where the engineered seed contamination is accidental and unintentional.
Organic Crop Extinction
Unfortunately the GMO seed threat doesn’t end with economics. In addition to saving many farmers from financial ruin, a ruling against Monsanto will likely mean that Monsanto will have to do more to ensure that their seeds are planted in zones that are less likely to contaminate organic farms. This, in turn, will help to protect organic crops from extinction.
If throwing around the e-word seems severe, rest assured that it’s not. Many organic farms are unable to avoid GMO contamination. When genetically modified seed contaminates a crop, it destroys the organic seed for that crop. Organic canola is near extinction as a result of genetically modified canola. And experts say that alfalfa, corn, cotton, soybeans and sugar beets aren’t far behind. If we don’t establish laws that protect organic farming from GMO contamination, it’s not unrealistic to worry about a world where genetically modified organisms have steamrolled everything in their path.