Last week, U.S. Federal District Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed the lawsuit brought by thousands of organic farmers against agribusiness giant Monsanto. The suit was intended to protect organic farmers from infringing on Monsanto’s future crop patents, in the event that pollen from the company’s GMO crops drifted to organic farms and thus began to grow hybrid GMO varieties.
The judge found that the plaintiffs’ allegations were “unsubstantiated, given that not one single plaintiff claims to have been so threatened.” The ruling also found the plaintiffs had overstated the issue, considering that Monsanto’s average of roughly 13 lawsuits per year “is hardly significant when compared to the number of farms in the United States, approximately two million.”
Monsanto insists that it does not sue farmers who unwittingly acquire their patented genes, despite their documented history of pressing over a hundred lawsuits against farmers. Organic farmers are also concerned of increasing GMO contamination. Most organic corn in the US typically contains half to 2 percent GMOs, according to companies that sell this type of corn to organic dairies or poultry farmers. It’s been this way since GM corn and soy became popular over a decade ago.
The plaintiffs; lead attorney, Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation at Cardozo Law School, said that he believes the judge made an error.
“Her failure to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and her characterization of binding Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers’ standing as ‘wholly inapposite’ constitute legal error. In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law.”
The farmers say they will fight on, and an appeal is currently being prepared. Concern continues to grow for the dangers of organic crop contamination, but Monsanto sees it differently. In a statement on the judge’s decision, executive vice president David F. Snively said, “This decision is a win for all farmers as it underscores that agricultural practices such as ag biotechnology, organic and conventional systems do and will continue to effectively coexist in the agricultural marketplace.”
[CC Image by jessicareeder via Flickr]