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Organic Seed v. Monsanto » Family Farmers Amplify Complaint Against Monsanto's GMOs, Reinforcing Their Arguments With Additional Plaintiffs

FAMILY FARMERS AMPLIFY COMPLAINT AGAINST MONSANTO'S GMOs, REINFORCING THEIR ARGUMENTS WITH ADDITIONAL PLAINTIFFS: Monsanto’s Failure to Provide Binding Legal Covenant To Protect Family Farmers Threatened by GMO Contamination Necessitates New Complaint

NEW YORK - June 1, 2011 - New threats by Monsanto have led to the filing of an amended complaint by the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) in its suit on behalf of family farmers, small and family owned seed businesses, and organic agricultural organizations challenging Monsanto's patents on genetically modified seed.   Twenty-three new plaintiffs have also joined with the original 60 in the amended complaint, bringing the total number represented in the case to 83.  The plaintiffs in the suit, titled Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA), et al. v. Monsanto and pending in the Southern District of New York, now include 36 family farmer, food, agricultural research, food safety, and environmental organizations representing hundreds of thousands of members and including several thousand certified organic, biodynamic, or otherwise non-transgenic family farmers.

“Our clients don't want a fight with Monsanto, they just want to be protected from the threat that they will be contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed and then accused of patent infringement,” said PUBPAT Executive Director Daniel B. Ravicher.  “We asked Monsanto to give our clients reassurances they wouldn't do such a thing, and in response they chose to instead reiterate the same implicit threat to organic agriculture made in the past.”

Soon after the March filing of the lawsuit, Monsanto issued a statement saying they would not assert their patents against farmers who suffer “trace” amounts of transgenic contamination.  In response, and in the hope the matter could be resolved out of court, PUBPAT attorneys wrote Monsanto’s attorneys asking the company to make its promise legally binding.  Monsanto responded to PUBPAT's request by hiring former solicitor general, Seth P. Waxman, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of WilmerHale, who rejected PUBPAT''s request and instead confirmed Monsanto may indeed make claims of patent infringement against organic farmers who become contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed.  Copies of both letters are available as exhibits at the end of the amended complaint.

“Monsanto's letter was an empty, indefensible, and self-evident evasion showing they are only interested in spinning propaganda without taking serious steps to resolve the problem created for organic and non-transgenic agriculture,” said one of the co-plaintiffs in the suit, Don Patterson of Virginia.  “With the Monsanto letter signed by Waxman, the company rolled out  their biggest legal cannon, but they fired off only fluffy wadding and smoke,” as he views it.  “The letter shows Monsanto wanting to protect their freedom to threaten farmers with patent infringement suits,” he states; “Both the threats and the lawsuits are clearly important to their marketing strategy and business model.”

“The serious issues being engaged in this case require a constructive and socially-acceptable response from the defendant in the public interest,” adds Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of OSGATA, the lead plaintiff in the suit. “In the absence of that, we reassert the essential importance of the arguments stated in March and reinforced now by the additional evidence of the Monsanto intransigence.  Monsanto's utter failure to act reasonably to address our concerns has only reaffirmed the need for our lawsuit.”

Marty Mesh, Executive Director of Florida Organic Growers, one of the newly added plaintiffs, said, “We join this suit with  sadness but feel compelled to seek justice.  If Organic farmers, seed growers, and companies have no assurance that technology they have never asked for, never signed a licensing agreement to use, have no desire to be a part of, and in fact, go to great lengths to avoid, can still trespass on their farms and subject them to a lawsuit by the patent holder who seemingly escapes all  liability for that trespass,  then it is not only morally wrong,  ethically  unjust, but also legally perverse.”

Francis Thicke, an organic farmer from Iowa and owner of Radiance Dairy, one of the newly added plaintiffs to the suit said, "We don't think we are asking too much to want assurance that if Monsanto's transgenic genes contaminate our crops we will not be sued by Monsanto.  It is bad enough that we face the threat of contamination of our organic and non-transgenic crops.  The least Monsanto can do is give us assurance that they won't sue us for their own genetic trespass."

Ruth Chantry of Common Good Farm in Nebraska, another newly added plaintiff to the suit, said: "It is outrageous that our entire farm, family business & livelihood could be at risk because of Monsanto's backwards and oppressive response and enforcement towards farmers in regards to transgenic pollen drift, unasked for and unintended, and the subsequent results in their fields.  Any transgenic pollen drift that would ever come onto our farm is of great detriment to us, and as such, is an invasion upon and a contamination of our crops, to the multi-species habitat we are assisting and creating here and to the integrity of how we are farming organically and Biodynamically."

In addition to supplementing the complaint with Monsanto's most recent statement confirming its threat to the plaintiffs and GMO-free agriculture, the new group of 23 organizations, seed companies, farms and individual farmers include fourteen organizations: Weston A. Price Foundation, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Rhode Island, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Manitoba Organic Alliance, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (Wisconsin), Midwest Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, Florida Organic Growers, Peace River Organic Producers Association (Alberta and British Columbia) and Union Paysanne (Quebec); two seed companies: Seed We Need (Montana), and Wild Garden Seed (Oregon); and seven farms or individual farmers: Common Good Farm, LLC (Nebraska), American Buffalo Company (Nebraska), Full Moon Farm, Inc. (Vermont), Radiance Dairy (Iowa), Brian L. Wickert (Wisconsin), Bruce Drinkman (Wisconsin), and Murray Bast (Ontario).

These plaintiffs join the 60 plaintiffs from the original filing of the lawsuit in March, which included twenty-two organizations: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc. (OCIA); OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; Mendocino Organic Network (California); Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance; Canadian Organic Growers; Family Farmer Seed Cooperative; Sustainable Living Systems (Montana); Global Organic Alliance; Food Democracy Now!; Family Farm Defenders Inc.; Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund; twelve seed companies: FEDCO Seeds Inc. (Maine); Adaptive Seeds, LLC (Oregon); Sow True Seed (North Carolina); Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Virginia); Mumm's Sprouting Seeds (Saskatchewan); Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., LLC (Missouri); Comstock, Ferre & Co., LLC (Connecticut); Seedkeepers, LLC (California); Siskiyou Seeds (Oregon); Countryside Organics (Virginia); Cuatro Puertas (New Mexico); Interlake Forage Seeds Ltd. (Manitoba); and, twenty-six farms and farmers: Alba Ranch (Kansas); Wild Plum Farm (Montana); Gratitude Gardens (Washington); Richard Everett Farm, LLC (Nebraska); Philadelphia Community Farm, Inc. (Wisconsin); Genesis Farm (New Jersey); Chispas Farms LLC (New Mexico); Kirschenmann Family Farms Inc. (North Dakota); Midheaven Farms (Minnesota); Koskan Farms (South Dakota); California Cloverleaf Farms; North Outback Farm (North Dakota); Taylor Farms, Inc. (Utah); Jardin del Alma (New Mexico); Ron Gargasz Organic Farms (Pennsylvania); Abundant Acres (Missouri); T & D Willey Farms (California); Quinella Ranch (Saskatchewan); Nature's Way Farm Ltd. (Alberta); Levke and Peter Eggers Farm (Alberta); Frey Vineyards, Ltd. (California); Bryce Stephens (Kansas); Chuck Noble (South Dakota); LaRhea Pepper (Texas); Paul Romero (New Mexico); and, Donald Wright Patterson, Jr. (Virginia).

More information about PUBPAT's suit against Monsanto's seed patents can be found at PUBPAT > Monsanto Seed Patents.

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