Supreme Test for Monsanto

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• Organic seed growers act to force agri-giant into court

By Mark Anderson

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) has firmly stood its ground in perhaps the most important legal action ever taken against agri-giant Monsanto. But more legal work remains to be done.

As AMERICAN FREE PRESS just learned, this grassroots group of 73 American organic and conventional family farmers, public advocacy groups and seed businesses asked the United States Supreme Court on September 5 to hear their concerns and move this lawsuit to the next level.

OSGATA’s over-arching goal is to maintain and expand the freedom to farm—and ideally to feed the population with food that not only is generally healthy, but which also is free of genetically modified organism (GMO) contamination.

In a formal statement, OSGATA President Jim Gerritsen, a Maine organic farmer, recalled that in a June 10, 2013 ruling, a three-judge federal court of appeals panel in Washington ruled that the plaintiffs are not entitled to bring a lawsuit to protect themselves from Monsanto’s transgenic seed patents because “Monsanto has made binding assurances that it will not ‘take legal action against growers whose crops might inadvertently contain traces of Monsanto biotech genes.’ ”

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Gerritsen, who distrusts Monsanto’s assurances, told AFP that ascending to the Supreme Court to challenge Monsanto concerns an important “point of law.” This may inspire the court to hear OSGATA’s case, he reasoned, since asserting such an “important point of law,” not the perceived severity of past rulings, is a major criterion the high court uses in deciding which cases to hear. “The court hears just 80 to 100 of the 8,000 cases it’s asked to each year,” Gerritsen noted.

OSGATA’s lead counsel, Daniel Ravicher, explained: “While the Court of Appeals correctly found that the farmers and seed sellers had standing to challenge Monsanto’s invalid patents, it incorrectly found that statements made by Monsanto’s lawyers during the lawsuit mooted the case. We have asked the Supreme Court to . . . reinstate the right of the plaintiffs to seek full protection from Monsanto’s invalid transgenic seed patents.”

As AFP first reported early in 2012, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. vs. Monsanto was launched because Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed, via wind-borne pollen and insects, was discovered to be contaminating neighboring non-GMO farms. Monsanto paradoxically claimed that even though the affected non-GMO farmers had no control over the patented GMO transgenic seed materials blowing onto their crops, the farmers were somehow guilty of  “patent infringement.”

As Gerritsen told AFP earlier in the process: “We don’t want one penny from Monsanto. American farmers deserve their day in court, to prove that farmers deserve protection from Monsanto’s abuse, and that Monsanto’s genetically engineered patents are not valid.”

Evidence cited in the plaintiffs’ court filings argues that “genetically engineered seed has negative economic and health effects, and that the promised benefits of genetically engineered seed—increased production and decreased herbicide use—are false,” OSGATA noted, in announcing its new Supreme Court effort.

Gerritsen noted that in 1817, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote that, to be patentable, an invention must not be “injurious to the well-being, good policy, or sound morals of society,” and “a new invention to poison people . . . is not a patentable invention.”

Mark Anderson is AFP’s roving reporter. Listen to Mark’s weekly radio show on the AMERICAN FREE PRESS RADIO NETWORK.