A United States judge ruled in favor of biotech giant Monsanto, dismissing a lawsuit that organic farmers filed against the company.
The suit was brought on by 83 plaintiffs, including the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, representing a total of 300,000 farmers, the Los Angeles Times reported. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the Federal District Court ruled that the organic farmers had not been harmed by Monsanto and had engaged in “a transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists," the New York Times reported.
The organic farmers had filed the lawsuit because of Monsanto's own tendency to file lawsuits against small farmers. Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, creates its own patented, genetically modified seeds. A 2008 Vanity Fair investigation details the aggressive tactics that Monsanto uses to protect those seed patents. Farmers have traditionally re-used their seeds year-to-year, the article says, but under Monsanto's patents, this practice isn't allowed. Instead farmers must purchase new seeds each year.
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And the small percentage of farmers that choose not to purchase Monsanto's seeds are also at risk of violating company patents. The agribusiness giant has sued farmers that have unintentionally had Monsanto's seeds in their farms "through cross-contamination via wind or other accidental methods," the LA Times said. "Monsanto has said for years that it would not sue farmers who inadvertently acquired their patented genes, yet there have been over a hundred such lawsuits."
The plaintiffs in the suit are mainly organic farmers and seed businesses that do not purchase Monsanto's products. "Plaintiffs are increasingly being threatened by transgenic [genetically modified] seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it," the lawsuit says. "This causes Plaintiffs to fear that, if they do indeed become contaminated by transgenic seed....they could quite perversely also be accused of patent infringement by the company responsible for the transgenic seed that contaminates them."
The lead counsel for the organic farmers, Daniel B. Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation, told the Times that the plaintiffs would now probably take the case to the Federal Court of Appeals.