Groups appealing court decision favoring Monsanto on seed patents

2013-09-13T10:18:00Z Groups appealing court decision favoring Monsanto on seed patents Iowa Farmer Today
September 13, 2013 10:18 am

Seventy-three U.S. organic and conventional family farmers, seed businesses and public advocacy groups are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case against Monsanto Co., challenging the company’s patents on genetically engineered seed.

In a June 10 ruling, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled a group of organic and otherwise non-GMO farmer and seed company plaintiffs are not entitled to sue 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 (because, for example, some transgenic seed or pollen blew onto the grower's land).’ “

Daniel Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation and lead counsel to the plaintiffs, said in an Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) news release, “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.”

“As a result, we have asked the Supreme Court to take the case and reinstate the right of the plaintiffs to seek full protection from Monsanto's invalid transgenic seed patents.”

The petition is available at www.pubpat.org/assets/files/seed/OrganicSeedSCTPetition.pdf.

The plaintiffs brought the case against Monsanto in March 2011.

“We have been farming for almost 40 years and we have never wanted anything to do with Monsanto,” said Jim Gerritsen, an organic seed farmer in Maine and OSGATA president.

“We believe we have the right to farm and grow good food the way we choose.

“We don't think it's fair that Monsanto can trespass onto our farm, contaminate and ruin our crops and then sue us for infringing on their patent rights. We don't want one penny from Monsanto.”

In the case, the plaintiffs are asking the courts to declare if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s GMO seed, they need not fear being accused of patent infringement.

Ravicher said, “One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed are invalid because they don't meet the ‘usefulness’ " requirement of patent law.

The plaintiffs say with the adoption of Monsanto’s GMO- seed technology, 49 percent of U.S. farmers reporting glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34 percent in 2011.

Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!, said, “For the past 20 years, Monsanto has used its political and financial power to foist a deeply flawed technology on America's farmers, consistently underestimating the real risks of genetic engineering while putting America's farmers, the environment and the public in harm's way simply in the name of profit.”

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