Biotech giant Monsanto is being preemeptively sued by a group of organic farmers who claim they are going to court to protect themselves from legal action by the corporation. The farmers claim that Mosanto seeds contaminated their organic crops and have launched the lawsuit to prevent the company from accusing them of patent infrigement for use of the patented, genetically modified seed. Confused? Well it seems that under current law, Monsanto is legally entitled to sue if Monsanto seeds are found in a farm for which they were not purchased – even if the seeds drifted over accidentally or by natural cross-pollination.
Image © Michael Oh
As this is hardly fair for the farmers, they have filed a suit under the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) on behalf of 60 farmers, seed businesses and organic agriculture organizations, representing some 270,000 members. Monsanto is playing it cool, calling the legal action a publicity stunt in a company blog. They state that the allegations are “false, misleading and deceptive.” The blog states that “It has never been, nor will it be Monsanto policy to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented seed or traits are present in farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means.”
However Sourcewatch has claimed that the company has an “annual budget of $10 million and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers” and there are multiple cases of harassment against farmers over alleged unauthorized use of its seed products.
PUBPAT‘s Executive Director Dan Ravicher noted, “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.”
“Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that’s not possible, and it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply.”
The stage is now set for an epic legal battle between the farmers and Monsanto. While it is not clear who is in the right or wrong, the seeds of intrigue have been planted.
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