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Organic farmers appeal Monsanto court ruling

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 by: John McKiernan
Tags: Monsanto, court ruling, appeal

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(NaturalNews) In February 2012, OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) demanded protection from Monsanto in a federal court case. Essentially, the organic farmers asked for a guarantee that they couldn't be sued over patent infringement if and when Monsanto's GE plants contaminate their crops.

Almost a year ago in the initial suit, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald dismissed the case calling the farmers' concerns "overstated;" encouraging the plaintiffs to trust Monsanto's non-legally binding promises to not exercise their patent rights over accidental transferring of GE crops. It turns out they don't trust the biotech giant much, as last week, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, which represents 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms, was back in the nation's capital to file an appeal. Carol Koury who runs Sow True Seeds in Asheville, North Carolina said "We want and demand the right of clean seed not contaminated by a massive bio-tech company that's in it for the profit."

In Judge Buchwald's first decision, she declared, "there is no evidence to suggest that plaintiffs are infringing defendants' patents, nor have plaintiffs suggested when, if ever, such infringement will occur." Last week in Washington, Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation directly challenged that decision. "If our clients don't have standing today to seek protection, when will they have standing? Do they have to wait to be contaminated?" he questioned. He also stated "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."

Ravicher's rhetoric is backed by 44 Monsanto lawsuits against family farmers and settled 700 cases out of court over the last 15 years. Moreover, many organizations estimate that Monsanto examines hundreds of farmers every year as possible culprits of patent infringement. Director of Monsanto's corporate affairs Tom Helscher said "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.'"

Many farmers are forced to avoid certain crops altogether just to steer clear of any potentially bankrupting lawsuits. Bryce Stephens, an organic farmer in northwest Kansas said "My fear of contamination by transgenic corn and soybeans and the resulting risk of being accused of patent infringement prevent me from growing corn and soybeans on my farm. There is no other reason why I do not grow those crops, and I would very much like to do so."

President of OSGATA and lead plaintiff in the case Jim Gerritson said "Farmers have suffered economic loss because they've abandoned growing corn and soybeans because they are certain they will be contaminated. They cannot put their farms and families at risk of being sued for patent infringement."

He also explained that organic farmers are "Classic examples of why Congress passed the Declaratory Judgment Act: if you have a group that fears being bullied by a large company, they can petition for protection from claims of patent infringement." Exploiting their patents on GE seeds, Monsanto maintains a dangerous level of power over the U.S. Agriculture industry, effectively squeezing out organic and non-GMO farmers and destroying their capability to take part and compete in the marketplace.

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See more health news articles by John McKiernan at The Holistic Truth

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