You may know about the landmark lawsuit that dozens of ranchers, seed growers and farm activists are relentlessly pursuing to protect themselves from agriculture giant Monsanto. They challenge the idea that anyone, least of all a giant corporation, can own the rights to a form of life in seeds. Patented Monsanto seeds are prohibited from being saved or shared beyond one season's crop. The plaintiffs want preemptive protection from being sued if their organic, and/or non-GMO crops get contaminated by Monsanto's widely used GMO crops (corn, soy, and more). Their latest legal appeal in Washington, DC was an effort to get their case heard, after a judge threw out their suit last year. While the case led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and articulated by Food Democracy Now has broad support, much of America remains unaware, while still other farmers continue business as usual with the company that controls much of the nation's seeds and food system. Following is a statement from Monsanto spokesperson Thomas Helscher regarding OSGATA's lawsuit:
"The district court ruling last year dismissing this case noted it was simply a transparent effort by Plaintiffs to create a controversy where none exists and further there was neither a history of behavior nor a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement matters against the Plaintiffs. Farmers who have no interest in using Monsanto’s patented seed products have no rational basis to fear a lawsuit from Monsanto, and claims to the contrary, to quote from the district Court, are “groundless” and “baseless.” As was stated in the Court, it has been, and remains, Monsanto’s policy not to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patents are present in a farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means. Nothing presented at the appellate hearing today contradicts this or establishes the Plaintiffs’ hypothetical assertions
We believe all farmers should have the opportunity to select the production method of their choice – whether organic, conventional or improved seeds developed using biotechnology. All three production systems co-exist and contribute to meeting the needs of consumers. Since the advent of biotech crops more than 15 years ago, both biotech and organic crop production have flourished. We have no reason to think that will not continue to be the case."
We'll be reporting on the ruling when it comes back from the federal appeals court. Find more background about this landmark case and how it affects all of us at the Public Patent Foundation.