US Farmers in Supreme Court Appeal over #Monsanto’s Patents on GE Crops

from A group of 73 American organic and conventional family
farmers, seed businesses and public advocacy groups asked the U.S.
Supreme Court today to hear their case against Monsanto Company
challenging the chemical and biotech seed giant’s patents on genetically
engineered seed

In Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA)
et al v. Monsanto, the plaintiffs have been forced to sue preemptively
to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should
their fields ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically
engineered seed, something Monsanto has done to others in the past.

In a June 10th ruling earlier this year, a three-judge panel at the
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a group of organic
and otherwise non-GMO farmer and seed company plaintiffs are not
entitled to bring a lawsuit 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).’”

“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,”
said Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of
the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) and lead counsel to the plaintiffs
in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto. “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 filed today by lawyers for the family farmers may be found here.

The plaintiffs brought the pre-emptive case against Monsanto
in March 2011 and specifically seek to defend themselves from nearly
two dozen of Monsanto’s most aggressively asserted patents on GMO seed.
They were forced to act pre-emptively to protect themselves from
Monsanto’s abusive lawsuits, fearing that if GMO seed contaminates their
property despite their efforts to prevent such contamination, Monsanto
will sue them for patent infringement.

“We have been farming for almost forty years and we have
never wanted anything to do with Monsanto,” said Jim Gerritsen, an
organic seed farmer in Maine and President of lead Plaintiff OSGATA. “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, cjim
gerritsenontaminate and ruin our crops and then sue us for infringing
on their patent rights. We don’t want one penny from Monsanto. 
farmers deserve their day in Court so we can prove to the world
Monsanto’s genetically engineered patents are invalid and that farmers
deserve protection from Monsanto’s abuse.”

In the case, the plaintiffs are asking the courts to declare
that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically
engineered seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent
infringement. 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, according to Ravicher.
Evidence cited in the plaintiffs’ court filings proves that genetically
engineered seed has negative economic and health effects, while the
promised benefits of genetically engineered seed – increased production
and decreased herbicide use – are false.

As Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote in 1817, to be
patentable, an invention must not be “injurious to the well-being, good
policy, or sound morals of society,” and “a new invention to poison
people … is not a patentable invention.” Because transgenic seed, and in
particular Monsanto’s transgenic seed, is “injurious to the well-being,
good policy, or sound morals of society” and threatens to “poison
people,” Monsanto’s transgenic seed patents are all invalid.

With the rapid adoption of Monsanto’s genetically engineered
seed technology, America’s farmers have been faced with a rampant rise
in superweeds, with more than 49% of U.S. farmers reporting
glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm in 2012, up from 34% that
farmers reported in 2011. In addition, scientists are reporting the
growing failures of Monsanto’s genetically engineered insecticide-corn,
with reports from scientists in the Midwestern corn belt states
detailing the rise of super insects becoming resistant to the
genetically engineered Bt toxin, leaving farmers vulnerable to the
voracious corn rootworm, the number one threat to corn farmers.

“For the past twenty 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,” said Dave Murphy,
founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots
movement of more than 650,000 farmers and citizens. “As the leading
arbiters of justice in the U.S., it behooves the Supreme Court to hear
this important case to protect America’s farmers from abusive patent
infringement lawsuits and invalidate Monsanto’s flawed patents as their
products have been shown to be damaging to human health and the
environment and failed to live up to the marketing hype.”

Complete background on the OSGATA et al v. Monsanto lawsuit is available here.

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