A 2011 TSW article titled, Monsanto Building a Monopoly on Genetically Modified Organisms, reported on farmers “who try to grow organic or unmodified seed have had their crops overtaken by Monsanto crops.
“When pollination takes place, the dominant DNA of Monsanto crops shares its traits with the organic crops, including the suicide gene, and essentially transforms traditional crops into Monsanto crops. In many cases, farmers have reported being harassed and threatened by Monsanto for allegedly reseeding or using Monsanto seeds without a contract” (1).
Some farmers have suffered from Monsanto’s patented seeds and even lost their farms. Should this just be chalked up to business or is there something more behind the legal power Monsanto exerts?
2014 Natural Society Article
In August 2014, The Natural Society featured an article written by Christina Sarich about the 16 years of Monsanto’s lawsuits against farmers. The disturbing part of this history was that the track record Monsanto holds for never losing a single case they brought against farmers.
That might not sound like a big deal until the numbers are revealed. Sarich writes, “Since 1997, Monsanto has filed 145 lawsuits, or on average about 9 lawsuits every year for 16 straight years, against farmers who have ‘improperly reused their patented seeds.’ ” (2)
Even the lawsuits that farmers brought against Monsanto for the cross-pollination of the GMO seeds with the farmers’ organic crops, Monsanto won! Sarich gives an example of a federal court dismissing the case by citing the court was unable to protect Monsanto “against unfair lawsuits should they side in the farmers’ favor.”
The deck is stacked against the farmer just as it is against the average person wanting GMO and GE labeling. How is it possible that a giant biotech company, the same one that brought Agent Orange into the world, has so much clout that it can sue and win cases of innocent cross-pollination, an act of nature? How can such cross-pollination not be something the company must be responsible for contaminating other crops, especially organic ones?
In 1930, the Plant Patent Act was passed. This act gave seed companies that altered seeds, such as hybrids at the time, the right to sell those seeds ensuring no one could steal their work. Monsanto has been able to exploit the Plant Patent Act with its GMO seeds whenever the seeds have accidentally cross-pollinated with an innocent farmer.
So, instead of fining Monsanto for contaminating the innocent farmer’s crop, the company is rewarded thanks to that 1930 Act. What recourse do the farmers have?
Lawsuits against Monsanto by Organic Farmers
In March 2011, the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association (OSGATA) filed a lawsuit against Monsanto on “behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and agricultural organizations and challenges Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered (GE) seed.”
The lawsuit specifically sought protection from the court for these family farmers whose crops were contaminated by Monsanto’s patented GE seed. Monsanto later accused these organic farmers of patent infringement, thanks again to the 1930’s Act that empowers Monsanto and other such companies (3).
In July 2012, OSGATA reported: “Following an oral hearing in January of 2012, Judge Naomi Buchwald sided with Monsanto in honoring their motion to dismiss.”
In response, on July 5, 2012, the plaintiff group grew to 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms “filed a brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.” The brief requested “the appellate court to reverse the lower court’s decision from February dismissing protective legal action against agricultural giant Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed.”
In June 2013, the court affirmed the previous decision of insufficient “controversy to warrant adjudication by the courts.” In September, a three-judge panel at the Court of Appeals “legally bound Monsanto to their courtroom assurances − that Monsanto would 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).’”
The OSGATA reported that the court believed their ruling protected the farmers and thereby mooted the OSGATA’s case. When OSGATA on behalf of the plaintiffs appealed to the US Supreme Court to “attain full protection for American farmers,” the court refused to allow the farmers to argue their case (4).
In an April 2015 press release, OSGATA announced that it was “one of 15 organic industry stakeholders” to file a “lawsuit against USDA for a violation of the federal rulemaking process in regard to potentially hazardous and synthetic and prohibited natural substances allowed in organic production” (5).
The battle between those concerned for seed integrity and the GMO giant Monsanto continues. A documentary “Open Sesame” explains the concerns for seed integrity and the realities of seed monopoly (6).
The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) published a report titled, “What Is Happening to Agrobiodiversity?” The statistics should frighten every person on the planet.
According to the FAO:
–> Since the 1900s, 75% of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties.
–> 30% of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction; six breeds are lost each month.
–> Today, 75% of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species.
–> Of the 4% of the 250,000 to 300,000 known edible plant species, only 150 to 200 are used by humans.
–> Only 3 edible plants: rice, maize and wheat contribute nearly 60% of calories and proteins obtained by humans from plants.
Perhaps the FAO’s must alarming figure is that “more than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared from farmers’ fields.”
In the face of these statistics, the question is being asked: “What will the remaining 10% of crop varieties being grown today be like in another 100 years?” (7)
References & Image Credits:
(1) TSW: Monsanto Genetically Modified Organisms
(2) Natural Society
(4) Constant Contact
(5) CC Archive
(6) Open Sesame Movie
(8) Map of Countries Requiring GMO Labels (in green)