Organic Farmers Appeal Lawsuit To Preempt Monsanto From Suing Them

A month ago, a U.S. District Court threw out a lawsuit filed by a group of organic farmers who hoped to prevent lawsuits from seed titan Monsanto should their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s patented, genetically modified seeds. Now those same farmers are hoping to get another day in court by appealing the case.

Though Monsanto’s seeds are widely used by many large farms, the farmers allege the company has a history of suing growers whose plants have inadvertently become contaminated by nearby crops that do use Monsanto seeds. Some say they have stopped growing certain items for fear that they will end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit.

In February, the U.S. District Court judge dismissed the case, saying, “Even were there credible threats of suit from defendants, there is no evidence that plaintiffs are infringing defendants’ patents, nor have plaintiffs suggested when, if ever, such infringement will occur.”

But unwilling to let the matter rest, the group of more than 50 organizations filed its notice of appeal earlier today, seeking review by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

“Farmers are under threat. Our right to farm the way we choose, and to grow pure organic seed and healthy food on our farms for our families and for our customers is under assault,” said the president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, lead plaintiff in the case.

At the time of the dismissal, a Monsanto lawyer called the court’s decision, “a win for all farmers.”

Organic growers appeal lawsuit against Monsanto [Reuters]

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  1. mauispiderweb says:

    At the time of the dismissal, a Monsanto lawyer called the court’s decision, “a win for all farmers who work for Monsanto.”

    FTFY.

  2. A Feral Ginger says:

    Damn, I meant to nominate them for WCIA. Just you wait until next year Monsanto! *shakes fist*

  3. Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

    Hope everyone has seen “Food Inc.” and “The World According to Monsanto”.

    • consumed says:

      Along these lines I would also recommend “King Corn”

      • Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

        I will have to check that out! Thanks!

      • Hartwig says:

        That is a very good documentary that doesn’t get talked about much. Free on Netflix in case anyone is interested. Goes into the changing of how farming is done in middle america and talks about the general view that most american’s have of farming and shows the actuality these days.

    • alexwade says:

      Just as a warning, I asked a farmer I know very well about some of the stuff presented in Food, Inc and he basically indicated the documentary was an over-exaggeration and that things aren’t as bad as portrayed in the documentary. His family has been farming for a long time, so I trust what they say about the issue.

      • bobloblaw says:

        so, hearsay on hearsay? the food we eat is F’ed right now. do some REAL research, learn yourself good, then get back to me.

        • crashfrog says:

          I hope you’re not suggesting that viewing one “documentary” constitutes “real research”? The producers of Food, Inc and other food-scare propaganda have the same motive as Monsanto – money. All the salacious claims of Food, Inc are there just to put butts in seats.

          • Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

            I personally deal with a customer who has been sued by the Monsanto goons for patent infringement.

      • Mark702 says:

        So it didn’t happen to him, so it must not have happened to anyone. I don’t have cancer, therefore cancer isn’t real it’s just a old wives tale.

  4. Cat says:

    Too bad there is no “Most Evil Company In America” competition.

    • TheHalfWit says:

      I dunno, I think some of the health insurance companies might give Monsanto a run for its money. They actually rely on people dying without collecting to make their money.

  5. smo0 says:

    I learned about this company a few years back from Food, Inc.
    It’s bigger business than oil.

  6. dolemite says:

    Just goes to show the power of lobbying that this is even a thing.

  7. Hi_Hello says:

    i dont get it… their seeds goes into farmer’s land and they sue??

    shouldn’t the farmer sue them?

    it’s like if my dog poop on the neighbor’s lawn… I get to sue them ??

    • longfeltwant says:

      Yep, it’s exactly like that, except that your dog is a millionaire asshole dog with really good lawyers and lobbyists. Also, instead of your neighbor’s lawn, it’s the starving children (and all other eaters) of the world getting shat on.

    • StarKillerX says:

      At first that was what I expected the article to be able, organic farmers wanting to sue Monsanto because their crops ended up being “contaminated” by GE seeds, but was surprised and confused by what it’s really about.

      • dolemite says:

        No, Monsanto has spies that go around snooping and if they find any of their seeds/plants on a farmer’s property, they can sue him into oblivion for “stealing” their seeds, even if the farmer never even planted a single one of their seeds and they were simply blown there or scattered by birds or something. It’s one of the shiftiest organizations on the planet, and probably puts Halliburton to shame.

    • dolemite says:

      Yup, because they claim the farmers are stealing the seeds, despite having no proof of it. And since the farmers are poor, and the company has an army of lawyers and lobbyists and billions of dollars, the farmers can’t even afford to fight back.

      This is what gets me when people say anyone can work hard and “make it” today. No, they can’t, because they’ll have to stand up to the Walmarts, Apples and Monsantos in the world. Like the pub that got sued by Hollywood because of “The Hobbit” theme.

      • phonebem says:

        You summed-it up really well. I think of that every time people dismiss certain movements as people who are only wanting to have the world handed to them instead of recognizing it as a second Boston Tea Party…

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

        Except in certain cases where they proved the farmers intentionally did it. Those are the ones they sue on.

        • Perdair says:

          I found exactly one instance of Monsanto suing a farmer after his plants were pollinated with their genes. The guy finds a very small portion of his plants are resistant to herbicide, and his next year’s crop is suddenly nothing but Monsanto plants. It doesn’t look like he innocently washed and replanted all of his seed – it looks like he knew that he was just keeping the Monsanto seed. It’s very suspicious and Monsanto sued him (they should have.) He basically stole their patented gene, and not by accident.

          To use your dog metaphor. It’s like if I bred superdogs, and patented them. You breed regular dogs. One of my superdogs gets in your yard and impregnates one of yours. I don’t sue, and you’ve got some super-puppies for free. Next year though, instead of continuing to breed all of the dogs at your puppy mill, you ONLY breed the super dogs and pretty soon that’s all you have.

          They have sued plenty of farmers for washing and replanting seeds. Know why? Because these farmers signed a contract when they bought the seed saying they wouldn’t wash and replant them. Seems like breach of contract is a good reason to sue.

          They’re huge and very successful – know why? Cause farmers buy their seeds. The farmers must think it’s a good business decision to do so. Not like there isn’t plenty of other places you can buy soy bean seeds.

    • Cat says:
    • Hartwig says:

      I would equate it to if your neighbors prized pure bred dog came over and bred with your mutt. Your dogs sires are now worth more because they bred with a prized dog in theory.

      What Monsanto did is create a breed of corn which is resistant to this one form of pesticide which they also sell. This allows them to spray this pesticide which kills everything but the corn. What they do is sell the corn to farmers each year without letting them reuse corn seed as was done in the past and is how these organic farmers are growing corn. When the organic farmers seed is contaminated with the Monsanto corn, in the eyes of Monsanto it is now illegal for them to reuse this corn. Even though they have no way of keeping the Monsanto strain out of their crops.

    • Kestris says:

      Cross pollination between Monsanto’s GMO plants and nonGMO plants is the big contention here.

      The resulting seeds, Monsanto claims, is theirs because the pollination ‘could have’ come from one of their GMO growing farmer’s fields. THAT’s why they sue. THAT’s why they claim patent infringment.

      As if Monsanto has control over the wind…

  8. StarKillerX says:

    Seems my comment hasn’t’ shown up, so I’ll try again (although this time I’ll make it shorter.)

    I’m confused by this, once Monsanto sells a seed how can they have further royalties due them? I mean even if Farmer Johnson harvests seeds from the crap he grew with Monsanto seeds those are totally new seeds that he produced, why should be pay anyone else to be able to use them?

    Applying this to people, if a company comes up with a gene therapy to treat some genetic condition and treats someones and is paid for the treatment if that person then has a child can the company demand payment for the childs “use” of the gene therapy?

    • Cat says:

      Because SCOTUS (Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 1980) said you can patent life forms.

      • ARP says:

        This. The seeds are essentially a patentable life form. If you grow them in your field (whether you want to or not), you’re using their patented technology and must get a license or can be sued into oblivion. It should be found as anti-competitive or patent misuse, but that it take a significant amount of money to get that to Fed Circuit.

    • Starphantom12 says:

      This could be wrong, but I *think* the gist of it is:

      Say a normal seed, when planted, will only produce X more seeds when grown. Monsanto spends millions to develop a seed that will produce X5 more seeds.

      Some of these seeds blow into Mr. Neighbor Farmer’s field. Suddenly Mr. Farmer is producing three times the amount of seeds (his own mixed with the Monsanto seeds). He takes the output to the market, where he competes with Monsanto for customers and takes home three times the profit he would have without the Monsanto seeds. Whether or not he wanted those Monsanto seeds, they “benefited” him and Monsanto takes issue with that.

      It doesn’t work with genetics and humans because babies are generally a huge money sink instead of profit generators.

      I’m not agreeing with any of what I just typed, but I think that’s the logic behind all of it.

      • StarKillerX says:

        Oh I understand what Monsato thinks on the issue, I just can’t see how it can be legal.

        For example many grape farmers trim their vines, and then root the cuttings to make more vines for their fields, but I don’t think they should have to pay a royalty to the first person that sold them the vine for each successive cutting.

        • Hi_Hello says:

          because everyone who decide if this is legal or not works for/with monsanto.
          heck, I even know who evil they are and I’ll work for them.

          • Baritonium says:

            Is it possible for you to proofread any of your comments, seeing as how every single one of them has multiple grammar and spelling errors? It would be nice.

        • damicatz says:

          Anything is legal when you are the one making the laws.

          Monsanto has bought the government and now the government does their bidding.

          Monsanto is a textbook case for eliminating the fraud that is known as “intellectual property”.

      • Jerry Vandesic says:

        It’s not just seeds, it’s pollen. You know, bees and such. When the crops are polinated via bees, the bees don’t necessarily stay within the confines of one farm. They fly all over the place and might deposit a Monsanto plant’s pollen on an organic farmers plant. Now you have Monstanto genetic material mixed with the organic plan. Monsanto might later claim that the mixed plan is now infringing on its intellectual property.

      • Damocles57 says:

        Here’s how it works:

        Monsanto uses genetic engineering to produce plants that can be sprayed with Roundup and will not die. That genetic modification is patented so they can sell you Roundup-Ready Seed to match the Roundup they want to sell you. You sign an agreement that you will not save and use seed that has this trait.

        Monsanto sues the adjacent organic farmer who got some of the genetically modified seed in his/her fields making their plants “Roundup Ready” and thus protected by patents. You can’t prove which seeds are not affected so you must destroy your seed and/or pay Monsanto for the “privilege” of using their genetically modified organism (GMO).

        And, because of the contamination from GMO crops in your organic fields, your crops cannot be sold or identified as organic. The organic farmers are trying to preempt Monsanto from suing if/when their GMO seeds make their way off the licensed farm into non-licensed adjacent farms.

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

          BTW, Roundup has been out of patent for YEARS. I have been able to buy generic Roundup from my Jonatahan Green for at least 5 years.

          • Damocles57 says:

            The recipe for Roundup may be copied, but the only way to use Monsanto Roundup Ready seeds is to also buy the Roundup from Monsanto. It’s in their contract and the only way to avoid the purchase is not to plant any of their genetically modified seeds. They have quite a racket going and it is all supported by patent laws and non-disclosure agreements and federal laws designed to make sure Monsanto and ConAgra and Cargill and Syngenta keep collecting their fees.

            It’s interesting that Michael Taylor – a former Vice President at Monsanto – is now a senior adviser with the FDA and is working to implement SB510 – the Food Safety Modernization Act – which was signed into law this past January and is part of our Department of Homeland Security.

            I feel safer already….

      • yabdor says:

        I have a garden. Your pigs trample my garden. Do I need to put up a fence to keep your pigs out or do you need to put up a fence to keep your pigs in? The answer will almost certainly depend on the state in which the issue is aired. But that appears to be the issue… who has to put up the fence.

      • FrugalFreak says:

        then monsato should research and develop a way to contain their seed.

    • Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

      I believe a farmer has to sign a form when they buy the seed saying that they will not clean or save seed for their own production. They get sued for an intellectual patent infringement.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      cause they can.

      Helllllll-o yea the kid has to pain since he is free from the genetic disorder. Hellllll-o the spouse needs to pay to for having the person that have gene therapy. It’s all in the contract they signed just before getting the gene therapy.

      Crazy world we live in.

      You want to go into business with me? Make a drug that will give people a certain type of cancer but provide the gene therapy to so people don’t get the cancer?

    • FrugalFreak says:

      Because we live in the crooked United States of Corporatism. I have no hopes and dreams in America anymore, just too many laws and lose of common sense. To many that are too greedy.

  9. iesika says:

    The seed rules make no sense to me. If someone sells me a product, and I use it, and sell the outcome of that product, that’s okay.

    If I, or someone else, takes the (legally salable, in the case of corn) outcome of that product and buries it in the ground, sprinkles water on it, and then sells the second (and third, and fourth, etc) generation outcome of that product, that’s illegal? Wat?

    I’ve got a garden full of radishes right now because I let a few of the radish seeds I bought last year grow up and go to seed. Am I stealing radishes?

    • Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

      If the radish seeds were gentetically modified to be round-up resistant, then yes.

    • crashfrog says:

      You don’t buy Monsanto traits, you license them. It’s like a software license, and the license works the same way that you can’t buy one copy of Photoshop and then sell copies of it on the street.

      None of this is new. The oldest court cases in the United States are about unauthorized “copying” of genetics; instead of paying your neighbor’s stud fee to breed your mare with his prizewinning stallion, you’d sneak your mare over in the middle of the night and breed. That’s always been considered stealing; Monsanto isn’t doing anything new. The farmers they’ve sued in the past knew they were taking Roundup resistance without paying for it.

  10. ned4spd8874 says:

    WCIA = Monsanto

  11. cyberpenguin says:

    In addition to ridiculous software patents, this is yet another example of what is broken in our patent system.

    When are enough people going to finally realize that patents are impeding science, not helping it.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      But, if I didn’t have the promise of billions of dollars in revenue, how could I justify coming up with new ideas?

      You know, the polio vaccine wasn’t invented out of the goodness of someone’s heart. It was developed by large R&D departments of major pharmaceutical manufacturers, who would never have done so unless they could project massive income from licensing the drug. Capitalism at it’s finest.

      /s – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salk_vaccine

  12. ilovemom says:

    Good luck pushing this further up the courts…they only get more pro big business as you approach the top.

    • dolemite says:

      True, but once you reach the top, it’s pro “whoever is the biggest business”, so they’ll probably be pro-Monsanto.

  13. NightWriter says:

    This is the problem with trying to patent a life form. You can’t control what it will do. These farmers didn’t buy or steal these seeds. The company didn’t sell or give them to the farmers. The seeds gave themselves to the farmers. It seems that since the genes in these seeds belong to Monsanto and the genes are spreading themselves on their own, legally you could make a case that Monsanto is effectively giving these seeds away and so they can’t blame the farmers.

    Here is a good analogy. Let’s say Ford invented a car that could reproduce other cars. Should I be to blame if I wake up one morning and find one of these cars has driven itself into my driveway? Is it my responsibility to keep these cars off my property if I want to avoid a lawsuit from Ford accusing me of stealing one of their cars?

    Ridiculous.

    • crashfrog says:

      If a brand new copy of Microsoft Office blew right in through your window, you still wouldn’t have the right to make a thousand copies and sell them to your friends.

      This isn’t the patenting of a life form, or even of a gene – those patents really are absurd. But you can exert copyright/patent control on biological traits you’ve developed by selective breeding and other forms of genetic manipulation, and plant and animal breeders have been doing that for three centuries. Monsanto isn’t doing anything new or unusual, and there really are farmers trying to steal Monsanto traits without paying for them – just as there really are businesses that use pirated copies of Microsoft Office.

      • Cor Aquilonis says:

        I think a more apt comparison is if a computer virus infected your machine, is it your fault if you have the virus on the machine (which you didn’t intentionally put on your machine), it reproduces on your machine then moves on to infect other machines (again, entirely without your knowledge or any consent or action on your part)? Did you violate the computer viruses copyright/licensing, and is it fair that the computer viruses owner could then sue you for having the infectious, reproducing code on your machine?

        • crashfrog says:

          I’m sorry, but that’s not what’s happening. The farmers Monsanto sued really did collect the “contaminated” seeds, sorted them out from the uncontaminated seeds, and then threw away all the uncontaminated seeds and planted only seeds “contaminated” with Monsanto’s proprietary traits. And then they tried to argue that they weren’t violating the terms of Monsanto’s end-user licenses because they’d stolen the seeds.

          The traits really are valuable, farmers really do want them because farmers make more money with them, and farmers are in a money-making business just like Monsanto is. If a farmer sees a way to get access to a valuable strain of seeds without paying for it, why wouldn’t he do it?

      • FrugalFreak says:

        but windows is not gonna integrat and contaminate my linux on it’s own beyond my doing it.

  14. bobloblaw says:

    thank you, consumerist, for bringing attention to this. you dont do it enough. I for one, strongly believe you should bring the issue of GMO’s up more often – this is the biggest consumer threat in my lifetime (im 30!), and judging from these comments, few people know what they are eating when they dont buy organic – 70%+ of our food is GMO and that means “sprayed with pesticides”!

    • crashfrog says:

      Organic farmers spray pesticides, too.

      “Organic” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It’s one arm of a marketing strategy, and instilling fear in people like you about conventional agriculture is the other arm.

      • vorpalette says:

        *Actually,* the term “organic” is very heavily regulated. I work in a greenhouse that grows organic herbs and vegetable plants, and we have to document every thing and we get inspected every year (in fact, we just had our inspection). We do use pesticides, yes, but that’s a very broad term–we use beneficial insects for pest control and consider them to be a pesticide. We also use biofungicides (microorganisms), biological pesticides (more microorganisms), and one of our herbicides is made from clover and wintergreen oils, another from garlic oil. Those are just examples of course, but I will happily send you all of the specimen labels for the pesticides that we use.

        • crashfrog says:

          Sure, all that stuff sounds “natural” and therefore “safe”, but synthetic pesticides are usually chemically identical to the active ingredients in things like clove oil; the most popular conventional insecticide is a chemically-identical synthetic chrysanthemum extract.

          Certain toxic metalloids are also approved for organic use. Your greenhouse may not use them, but they’re in widespread use, because they’re mined from the ground and therefore “natural.” Organic doesn’t mean “safe” and it doesn’t mean “non-toxic.” It doesn’t even mean “no pesticides.” It doesn’t even mean “no genetic modification” – it just means you can’t use certain kinds of genetic manipulation.

    • rmorin says:

      Ahahahaha “Organic” means nothing and is just another big business sales tactic.

      Firstly, there is dubious health evidence that organic food is more nutritious, or more safe then conventional farming. “But it doesn’t use CHEMICALS!” is not a sound argument, sorry, there is just no definitive evidence that supports this.

      Secondly when considering the environment, you have to think about where the food is coming from. Sorry, but if you live in the mainland of the United States and have ever eaten a pineapple the carbon emissions needed to get that pineapple to you are far worse for the environment then the pesticides that may be used in it’s cultivation. Many “organic” foods in the U.S. come from factory farms in China.

      There is no conclusive evidence that organic foods are health-wise better for you, arguing otherwise shows a bias. There is dubious evidence about the ecological risks unless you are sourcing everything you eat within a hundred miles or so of yourself. In conclusion, just like people watching KONY 2012, despite watching “Food Inc.”, “The World According to Monsanto”, and “King Corn” there is no easy sound bite to sum up the American food system.

  15. dush says:

    This Monsanto seed and subsequent lawsuits are threatening the interstate commerce of pure organic produce. Congress needs to strictly regulate it. Right?

  16. FilthyHarry says:

    You have to wonder how intentional this was on Monsanto’s part. Its like if cancer sued you for making more cancer in your body.

  17. bdcw says:

    These farmers should sue Monsanto for contaminating their genetically pure crops.

  18. bkdlays says:

    Monsanto is one of the most terrible companies ever

  19. BurtReynolds says:

    So can I sue my neighbor for not eradicating all of the weeds in their lawn, which then deposit seeds in my lawn?

    I know Monsanto likes to think they are masters of the natural world, but you cannot control wind and insects.

  20. TheCorporateGeek Says Common Sense Is The Key says:

    Didn’t a court just rule that you can’t “Patent or Trademark” things that naturally occur such as genes and DNA?

    This in my opinion would apply to plant seeds as well as they occur naturally.

    • crashfrog says:

      Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready traits don’t “occur naturally”, they’re a product of selective breeding, and you’ve been able to legally protect bred traits since the beginning of the United States.

  21. TKDplaya says:

    Sorry if this was explained already, but I’ve seen several comments regarding it. The trick Monsanto uses is that the product grown from their seeds does not produce plantable seeds the following year. New seeds have to be purchased each year. Dirty…

    • crashfrog says:

      No, that’s not true. You’re thinking of “Terminator” genes, which were never released in any product.

      A lot of people don’t know that farmers don’t want to save seeds. They want to buy new seeds every year because almost all major crops exhibit heterosis, which means that the F2 generation doesn’t have the same traits as the F1. Another word for heterosis is “hybrid vigor.”

      You can’t save and replant crops like corn, because it cuts your yield in half. That’s not something Monsanto is doing, that’s just genetics.

  22. damicatz says:

    To be honest, as much as I despise Monsanto, I do not see, after reading their complaint, a case. I am not a lawyer but I do make it my business to study up on law (as every citizen should).

    Declaratory relief is when you petition the court to make a judgement on the rights of parties involved. Most commonly, it is used when someone threatens to sue you; you can essentially force the issue in court (e.g put up or shut up) by asking the court to make a ruling on if the threatened lawsuit has merit.

    In order to seek declaratory relief at the federal level, the plaintiff must demonstrate “actual controversy” under 28 USC ¬ß 2201. Basically, you cannot just petition the court because someone theoretically *might* sue you; they have to have actually threatened you or engaged in an action that could potentially harm you (such as suing your customers for using your product; the courts are not here to issue advisory opinions but to settle actual disputes.