11 January 2013, 15:42

US organic farmers seek protection from Monsanto

US organic farmers seek protection from Monsanto

US organic farmers have appealedto the US Federal Court against a GMO seed producer Monsanto, demanding protection of their rights against the billion-dollar corporation.

The controversy started when the nonprofit organizations, the Public Patent Foundation and the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, representing over 300,000 US farmers, filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, holder of numerous GMO seed patents and the best-selling genetically modified corn and soy.

The farmers claimed that Monsanto sued farmers when their non-GMO crops became contaminated by GMOs growing in nearby fields, as in this case the farmers breached the company’s patent rules. The organic and non-GMO farmers hoped the suit would protect them from any litigation in the case that their crops become contaminated without their knowledge via drifting pollen or cross-pollination from bees.

That time the Judge Buchwald dismissed the case on the grounds that none of the plaintiffs had actually been sued by Monsanto and therefore their reasons were “unsubstantiated”. The ruling stated, “there is no evidence to suggest that plaintiffs are infringing defendants' patents, nor have plaintiffs suggested when, if ever, such infringement will occur”.

On the other hand, according to a 2007 report made by the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, Monsanto investigates 500 farms each year whose fields supposedly contain Monsanto's patented crops. As of 2006, about 10 years after the commercial introduction of GMOs, Monsanto's internal records show that as many as 4,531 such cases may have been settled out of court. “And all of these proceedings have been kept confidential”, says Doug Gurian-Sherman, PhD, senior scientist in the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association has vowed to fight the judge's last dismissal because many of the farmers have said they don't want to plant GMO crops such as corn or soy for fear that their crops will become contaminated and, as a result, they will be sued by Monsanto. So now they seek legal protection from the billion-dollar corporation’s attacks. For that reason almost 200 farmers gathered outside the White House for protests.

Monsanto says attempts to drag them back into court are without merit. “The district court ruling dismissing this case noted it was simply a transparent effort by plaintiffs to create a controversy where none exists”, says Tom Helscher, Monsanto’s director of corporate affairs. “Farmers who have no interest in using Monsanto’s patented seed products have no rational basis to fear a lawsuit from Monsanto, and claims to the contrary, to quote from the district Court, are ‘groundless’ and ‘baseless.’ As was stated in the court, it has been, and remains, Monsanto’s policy not to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patents are present in a farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means”.

USDA Organic regulations require organic farmers, who aren't allowed to use GMO crops, to plant buffers that will theoretically protect their non-GMO crop fields (cornfields, for instance) from contamination. But that doesn't work. Anywhere from 0.5 to 2 percent of organic corn sold in the U.S. is contaminated with genes found in GMO corn.

Voice of Russia, RT, the Rodale.com

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