Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Landmark Family Farmers Lawsuit Against Monsanto Grows

Prominent Allies Join Effort to Reinstate Challenge to Monsanto Patents 

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Activist Post

Eleven prominent law professors and fourteen renowned organic, Biodynamic®, food safety and consumer non-profit organizations have filed separate briefs with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit arguing farmers have the right to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement by agricultural giant Monsanto.

The brief by the law professors and the brief by the non-profit organizations were filed in support of the seventy-five family farmers, seed businesses, and agricultural organizations representing over 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms that last year brought a protective legal action seeking a ruling that Monsanto could never sue them for patent infringement if they became contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed. The case was dismissed by the district court in February and that dismissal is now pending review by the Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs recently filed their opening appeal brief with the appeals court.

"Monsanto continues to claim that Plaintiffs' concerns about being accused of patent infringement after being contaminated by Monsanto's transgenic seed are unsubstantiated and unjustified," said attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit legal services organization Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), which represents the plaintiffs in the suit against Monsanto known as Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v Monsanto. "But now two impeccable groups have joined with plaintiffs in explaining to the Court of Appeals how real and legitimate their concerns really are, especially since Monsanto continues to refuse to simply promise never to sue contaminated farmers for patent infringement."


The first group filing a brief in support of the OSGATA plaintiffs includes eleven prominent law professors from throughout the United States, including Professor Margo Bagley of the University of Virginia School of Law, Professor Michael Burstein of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Professor Rochelle C. Dreyfuss of the New York University School of Law, Professor Brett Frischmann of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Professor Erika George of University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, Professor Shuba Ghosh of the University of Wisconsin Law School, Professor Megan M. La Belle of the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, Professor Kali Murray of Marquette University Law School, Professor Ted Sichelman of the University of San Diego School of Law, Katherine J. Strandburg of the New York University School of Law, and Melissa Wasserman of the University of Illinois College of Law.

In their amicus brief, the law professors point out that, "broad standing to challenge the validity of patents ensures that the courts can effectively play their critical role in screening out invalid patents." They add, "In actions challenging the validity of a patent, the alleged injury is not only the risk of an infringement suit, but a present restraint on economic activity due to the presence of a potentially invalid exclusive right." The law professors went on to note, "But the validity of issued patents is uncertain until they are tested in court. This uncertainty creates real and present risks for persons wishing to engage in economic activity that might be the subject of an issued patent….When a person is deterred from undertaking valuable activity by the risk that the activity may encroach on another's exclusive rights, that person has incurred an actual, concrete and particularized injury."

"We are grateful for the brilliant and powerful amici briefs submitted to the appeals court by these two stellar groups, supporting our family farmers' quest for justice," said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of lead Plaintiff, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. "An erroneous interpretation of law by a single judge is not going to cause our farmers to abandon our rights to farm the way we choose, to grow good food and good seed for our families and for our customers, free from Monsanto's trespass and contamination. Denial of the property rights of American farmers is an attack on the property rights of every American. We will fight until family farmers receive justice."

Non-GMO Heirloom Seed Bank
The second group filing a brief in support of the OSGATA plaintiffs, made up of fourteen non-profit agricultural and consumer organizations, includes the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, Food and Water Watch, International Organic Inspectors Association, Maine Alternative Agriculture Association, Michigan Land Trustees, Natural Environmental Ecological Management, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, Organic Consumers Association, Slow Food USA, Virginia Association for Biological Farming, Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, and Wisconsin Natural Food Associates.

In their amicus brief, the non-profit agricultural and consumer organizations point out, "The Plaintiff and Amici organizations, farmers, and seed businesses have suffered significant harm due to the threat of patent infringement suits by Monsanto." . They also noted, "Defendants have chosen to patent products that, by their very nature, will inevitably end up on the private property of people who have no desire to use them.

Plaintiffs' uncontroverted allegations show that, for the first time in history, they can be sued for something as natural as pollen drift, while simultaneously being forced to take expensive and burdensome steps in order to continue their normal businesses. The quandary of this type of liability is precisely the sort of situation that the Declaratory Judgment Act was intended to address." The amicus brief further explained, "The Supreme court has stated that the plaintiff "need not 'bet the farm'" yet in this case, that is precisely what the district court effectively required Plaintiffs to do in order to get their day in court – continue farming the disputed crops until they are unquestionably liable to Defendants for potentially crippling levels of damage before being able to seek a declaratory judgment as to their rights…The district court noted that 'unlicensed – and unintented – use of transgenic seeds is inevitable…' but then failed to address the fact that such unlicensed use is actionable and places Plaintiffs at risk of enforcement actions by Defendants." 

"It's time to end Monsanto's scorched-earth campaign of frivolous lawsuits against America's family farmers," said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots community of more than 300,000 farmers and citizens dedicated to reforming food and agriculture. "Monsanto's claims against farmers for patent infringement are exceedingly weak, violating Americans' most basic sense of fairness and decency. Our Founding Fathers would be outraged", stated Murphy.

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This Press Release will be loaded onto the Wood Prairie Farm website here.  Complete background information about OSGATA et al v. Monsanto is available at www.woodprairiefarm.com

Wood Prairie Farm is located in Aroostook County, Northern Maine's historic center of potato farming. For over 36 years, Jim & Megan Gerritsen and their family have been farming organically and grow the finest potatoes, seed and vegetables. Wood Prairie Farm's organic seed potatoes, kitchen potatoes, vegetable and cover crop seeds and other products are available direct to the customer by mail order from its website and catalog www.woodprairie.com800-829-9765. Wood Prairie Farm is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/woodprairiefarm


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7 comments:

Unknown said...

Let me be the first to congratulate and thank these people who are going after Monsanto. I have wondered for a long time- (not being a lawyer) why, Monsanto hasn't been assailed for violations of antitrust law. They are building a food monopoly that spreads its insidious territory through natural, and unavoidable processes.

It would be as if the person who discovered electrolysis, and the power to create Hydrogen and Oxygen by splitting the water molecule with electricity, received a patent and then decided to sue anyone who breathed in a molecule of 02.

There is more money being exchanged in the farming industry than in Petroleum. Hundreds of billions of dollars. So to have an exclusive control over individual crops by virtue of their unique genetic makeup, and has the potential to make ALL FOOD CROPS property of Monsanto through the nexus of pollen migration and natural hybridization. The situation, just on the face of it-- defies the notion of fairness and justice where private property rights are concerned.

Best of luck to you folks!

Anonymous said...

Hoping being hope that Monsanto goes down. Thanks to those that are standing up to them - for ALL our sakes!!

LadyRavenhaire said...

Monstanto shows us clearly that we live in a Fascist state. As Mussolini described as a merger between the state & corporations. Obama awarded chief top government posts, including head of the FDA to Monstanto. A third of all the bee population is gone due to GM crops. This is a catastrophy to our nation & everyday more & more bees die. Rather than our government banning GMO crops & encouraging organic, sustainable farming, they allow Monstanto to use the courts as a weapon against organic farmers to put them out of existence & use the FDA to do their dirty business as well. If all the bees die, all we will be able to eat as a nation is the GM crops that killed all the bees to begin with. You would think our leaders would care, but why should they after all they are employees of big business? They have their hot houses& will be able to eat organic vegetables & fruits. It's only us the slaves who won't.

Anonymous said...

ATTENTION Lawyers; File a lawsuit on behalf of farmers "accused" of patent infringement against Monsanto on grounds of CRIMINAL TRESPASS: If the company owns a patent on a gene, then they are responsible for the location of that gene. Just like a child who commits a crime, the guardian is responsible for their whereabouts and activities and the prevention of criminal acts.

Anonymous said...

extremely noble cause, but I fear that it is another case of the sheep appealing to the wolves. The solution lies elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Could Monsan be liable for failing to keep their products within designated boundaries? AKA a biosecurity threat polluting lands or plants that arent part of the oldboys club. Something along the lines of failing to secure the load on a truck on the road

Anonymous said...

Oh the arrogance of our race. To honestly believe that we, humans, are better and more knowledgable than nature itself (depending on your school; or the beings that invented nature) Collectively the human race has NOT cured one disease in thousands of years and now we decide to demote god (I am gnostic by the way). Mr monsant is no better than his poison corn (or chalice). Where do these self serving pigz get off?

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