Jim Gerritsen was chosen as an Utne Reader visionary in 2011. Each year Utne Reader puts forward its selection of world visionaries–people who don’t just concoct great ideas but also act on them.
Jim Gerritsen runs a small organic farm in Maine. In addition to doing his daily chores, he spearheads a lawsuit against corporate agriculture giant Monsanto, filed last spring on behalf of 270,000 family farmers, gardeners, and consumers who are suing to keep some food crops free of genetic modification.
“The stakes are so high,” says Gerritsen, president of the lead plaintiff, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “We have a right not to be invaded by something that would be catastrophic to our businesses and our families.” Without the lawsuit, Gerritsen prophesies a world food supply devoid of organic crops.
Monsanto has a well-documented history of aggressively defending its genetically modified seeds–including, ironically, claiming patent infringement by organic farmers whose produce becomes contaminated from modified seed that drifts onto their fields. Indeed, accidental pollution has already turned some heirloom crops into extinct species. The lawsuit has two stated goals: to challenge the constitutionality of Monsanto’s seed patents and to protect farmers accused of stealing patented seed.
“You can’t help but do what needs to be done,” says Gerritsen. “Either we stand up and fight now for the right to an alternative or we will lose that option forever.”