Fedco Joins Lawsuit against Monsanto
See article for background
on Fedco dropping Monsanto products here.
In November 2011 our staff and Board voted unanimously to join
a lawsuit against Monsanto filed by The Public Patent Foundation
(PUBPAT), a not-for-profit legal services organization affiliated
with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York. With Monsanto
responding by engaging the prestigious Washington law firm of WilmerHale
(their chief counsel on this case, Seth P. Waxman, served as Solicitor
General under President Clinton) we anticipated a legal battle of
great potential significance.
Fedco joined 82 co-plaintiffs, encompassing a broad range of agricultural
organizations, seed businesses, organic certifiers, family farmers
and seed growers who could potentially be damaged by the uncontrolled
spread of transgenic seeds and their unchecked potential to contaminate
conventional and organic seed crops. None of the plaintiffs wishes
to use or sell transgenic seed. Ironically, plaintiffs fear “that
if they do indeed become contaminated by transgenic seed, they could
quite perversely also be accused of patent infringement by the company
responsible for the transgenic seed that contaminated them.”
Courts have in the past ruled that even adventitious presence of
transgenes violates Monsanto’s patents (Percy Schmeiser case).
Among co-plaintiffs are our friends at MOFGA, OEFFA, all but one
of the seven state NOFA chapters, The Center for Food Safety, at
least eight seed growers and seed companies with whom we collaborate,
and several of our farm customers.
The lawsuit seeks to invalidate 23 of the gene giant’s transgenic
patents on the grounds that they lack beneficial social utility
and original art. It asks the court, even if it finds the patents
valid, to enjoin Monsanto from enforcing them on plaintiffs who
are inadvertently contaminated by Monsanto’s genetics. The
complaint states that between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto filed “144
lawsuits against farmers in at least 27 different states for alleged
infringement of its transgenic seed patents” and investigated
and threatened hundreds more, including some who never purchased
Monsanto’s seeds, signed their technology-use agreements,
or ever intended or wanted transgenic genes on their property.
Getting right to the point it begins, “Society stands on
the precipice of forever being bound to transgenic* agriculture
and transgenic food. Coexistence between transgenic seed and organic
seed is impossible because transgenic seed contaminates and eventually
overcomes organic seed.” Indeed, we would go further and assert
that transgenic seed eventually contaminates and overcomes all other
seed, conventional as well as organic.
The largest human-instigated biological experiment in history,
transgenic technology is without controls or boundaries. Most participants
are unwitting, having been drafted without their consent. No fence
can be built high enough to keep out unwanted biological pollution,
no geographic boundary can stop it. Because it multiplies at will,
it cannot be contained. No long-term tests have been performed to
assess its safety for humans, no labels have been required to permit
an audit trail that could monitor its effects.
By posing the question: Given the increasing ubiquity of transgenic
technology, who pays when something goes wrong as it inevitably
will?, this lawsuit could help level the economic playing field
for us all. It represents our last best chance to build a metaphoric
fence to protect at least the economic interests of those of us
who eschew the technology. Until now, the law regarding transgenics
has been upside-down, representing the interests of its corporate
originators without protecting those who are trespassed by it. This
lawsuit could restore the traditional common-law right of freedom
from trespass and place the economic responsibility back where it
belongs: on the trespassers. As such, it is profoundly conservative
in all the good connotations of that word.
If we win on the issues of applicability and enforceability of
the patents in cases of unwanted genetic drift, none of the 83 co-plaintiffs
will ever be sued for adventitious presence, and it will set a precedent
that applies to all others in a similar fix. That might not end
the threat of transgenics, but it would be a New Deal, indeed!
The suit is being tried as OSGATA et. al. V. Monsanto in US District
Court, Southern District of New York, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald
presiding. The case is likely to take several years as we are now
only in the beginning phase of preliminary motions. We will keep
you posted as it develops.
For more information contact me at email@example.com.
See also http://www.fedcoseeds.com/seeds/monsanto.htm,
our definitive 2006 statement on why we do not purchase seed from
Monsanto or any of its subsidiaries.