Add to My MSN

Organic Farmers Lose More Ground to Monsanto

3/1/2012 10:54:46 AM

Tags: Monsanto, organic seeds, GM crops, Jim Gerritsen, environment, Care2

monsanto-corn.jpg 

This article originally appeared on Care2. 

***

Monsanto’s bullying tactics received a legal nod of approval on February 24th, when Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed a suit brought against the company by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA). The association was joined by 82 other plaintiffs. Nearly 300,000 organic farmers were represented in the action.

According to Judge Buchwald, the plaintiffs failed to prove their case. Only one farmer and one seed distributor claimed to have already purchased contaminated seed. Neither of them claimed Monsanto’s seeds were among the “offending seeds.” Monsanto had demanded royalty payments from only one of the plaintiffs. The judge did not consider the company’s history of threats and suits against conventional farmers sufficient evidence Monsanto would sue the plaintiffs.

OSGATA’s president, Jim Gerritsen, himself an organic farmer [and Utne Reader visionary], published this response on the organization’s website:

Family farmers need the protection of the court. We reject as naïve and undefendable the judge’s assertion that Monsanto’s vague public relations ‘commitment’ should be ‘a source of comfort’ to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto. The truth is that American farmers and the American people do not believe Monsanto. Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice.

The dismissive tone of Judge Buchwald’s decision is curious in light of Monsanto’s history with conventional farmers. The company has made a practice of raiding fields in search of any infringements of their patents. Most farmers cave when threatened with massive fines, even if wind and pollinating bees brought the unwanted seed into their fields. So the judge’s statement that the “average of roughly thirteen lawsuits per year is hardly significant when compared to the number of farms in the United States” is more than a little disingenuous.

Monsanto’s Bullying Tactics 

In 2008, Vanity Fair published an investigative report on Monsanto’s tactics. “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear” charges:

As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the “seed police” and use words such as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” to describe their tactics.

Judge Buchwald ignored some of the farmers’ concerns. She was silent on the issue of Monsanto seed’s contaminating organic fields. She also did not address their contention that Monsanto’s patents were fraudulent.

OSGATO’s lead attorney, Daniel Ravicher, is quoted on the Food Integrity Now website as saying: “While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing.”

Plaintiffs have the right to take their case to the Court of Appeals so Judge Buchwald’s decision will likely not be the last salvo heard in the struggle between small farmers and Monsanto. Still, the outcome is disappointing. David went up against Goliath. In this round, Goliath won.

Image by Thierry Ehrmann, licensed under Creative Commons. 



Related Content

A Taste of the Antebellum South

An avant-garde chef reveals his secret ingredient: nineteenth-century sesame seeds....

GM Food: Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Most people are skeptical of GM foods. Why can't we label them?

GMOs: The Bad Seed?

Objectivity is boring. The determined even-handedness of “GMOs: The Seeds of Discord” at Paris's sci...

Rick Steves, Pied Piper of Pot Reform

Legions of middle-aged women follow travel aficionado Rick Steves’ televised tours through Europe. N...

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 

Abner Malady
3/5/2012 5:49:49 PM
This is really disappointing. Sorry to be a bad sport, but it really makes me the think the judge has been bought. Lets proceed furthor....






Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!